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progressive rock

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Ghostly Beard, Infinite, 2017

ghostly beard - infiniteSometimes it is hard to fathom why some releases are independent. Except when it is by choice of course. Anyway, after some 15 years away from music, the entity that is Ghostly Beard (the handle one man band Patrick Talbot chose to release his music under) is treating us with this EP, called Infinity.

I have been listening to this quite a lot over the past week or so and I must say I am totally impressed with what is on offer. The 5 songs in almost 25 minutes of music span a wide array of rock, but every song has multiple reasons to fall in love with them. Opener Close Your Eyes will surely appeal to people who are very fond of Pink Floyd. Including a blistering guitar solo. But also because the feel and mood of the song is just very enchanting. Frozen In Time is carried by some stunning bass playing (sounds fretless) as well as more exquisite and moody guitar work. Let alone the synths and flageolet like sounds throughout it. And good melodies of course. No Return is another moody piece that grabs you and refuses to let go. No need to discuss the last 2 songs, they are equal to the others.

Ghostly Beard proves that there are no limits when it comes to quality in music. Every song hits home, and hits home hard. Essential stuff if you ask me!

Website

Katre, Encounters, 2017

Katre-Encounters-2017I love the internet! It makes the world so small and easy for people to find one another. Like in this case, where guitarist Hasan Koç contacted me about this release. When I saw the band name and it’s 4 members, I presumed the name was a wordplay on the French word for 4 (quattre), which phonetically sounds the same. But as it says in their biography, it is in fact an old Arabic word meaning drop. And it refers to the 4 members contributing to the ocean of life. Nice. Another aspect is that the members live in 4 different cities in 3 different countries. So they work and communicate online.

This album focuses on the concept of existence. The 8 songs are divided in 2 chapters (Existence and Existing) and are carried by applying the ebow to the electric and fretless guitars, thus sustaining the sound. And you really have to hear that sustain to believe it. It gives their sound (coming from guitars, along with bass and drums) an almost synthetic dimension, like keyboards do. Of course, throughout the songs you still hear the guitars and for those familiar with the ebow, that is also easy to recognise.
The result is a wonderful, sometimes dreamy album of so called post rock, with progressive elements. Instrumental, but I did not miss vocals for one second. A lot of thought has gone into the creation of these songs. The info sheet they sent me explains every one of them to great detail and makes for an interesting read. Still for me the most important part is the music and that I enjoyed very much. So much feel and passion. And their Eastern origins pop up here and there, adding even more colour.

A tasty and diverse album that sucks you in, awesome!

Website

Schooltree, Heterotopia, 2017

schooltree - heterotopiaNow here is an ambitious work for you! Schooltree is built around the songs of singer, pianist and synth player Lainey Schooltree. Her band consists of Brendan Burns on guitar, Derek van Wormer on bass, Tom (Tod or Tad) Collins on drums, Peter Danilchuk on organ and synths and Peter Moore on nylon guitar, vocals, strings and programming. I think there are 2 versions of this album, but I laid my hands on the double disc edition.

With a sound that could be described as the evil child of Kate Bush and Queen, mixed with a lot of vintage prog elements, this is not an album filled with elevator music. Not that the songs do not have hooks and catchy melodies, no there is just a lot happening throughout the album. But I guess that for people like me, that makes for a really interesting listen. And one that has to be repeated to be able to fully appreciate the work that has gone into this.
And I cannot help but be impressed by the music. It is versatile, full of twists and turns and in fact a bold testament of just creating that album that you think it should be. In this case it is also an example of listening from start to finish and immersing yourself in it.

The result is a release that impresses on all accounts. Songs, performances, arrangements. Rich in ideas and textures, an album that reveals more every time you listen to it. One for eternity I think, so fans of prog: BUY!

Website

Brother Ape, Karma, 2017

brother ape - karmaFor me personally, this is a giant treat, a new Brother Ape album. Finally! The last couple of years the only releases becoming available were EP’s in digital format, alas. As you might know, I prefer CD’s, so I am very happy to present their new album here. I also was so lucky to be able to buy one of the Deluxe Editions. Those 3 EP’s I mentioned are all present on the bonus disc, including 2 extra songs, making that bonus disc a 14 track miracle of listening pleasure.

The regular album on this release holds 8 songs with a playing time of just over 40 minutes. Now I don’t mind because of my extra disc (even when 6 of those 8 originate from those EP’s), but for modern standards that is… well modest. But hey, you do get totally awesome songs as opener Oblivion, the instant Sixteen and the hauntingly exciting Hina Surawa. As well as 5 other killer songs of course, no fillers here.
Because in my humble opinion, every Brother Ape album is a testament of beautiful crafted songs with emotional depth, coupled with instrumental prowess, hooks and melodies. It is sometimes hard to believe how the trio of Damicolas, Maxen and Bergman keep coming up with brilliant idea after wonderful arrangement.

Every lover of melodic rock music infused with prog elements will absolutely love their music. No doubt in my mind.

Website

Doris Brendel and Lee Dunham, Eclectica, 2017

doris brendel - eclecticaRegular followers of the blog will surely be familiar with the name of Doris Brendel. This unique rock singer with the husky voice is going from strength to strength it seems. And as usual, again with the help of Lee Dunham, the songs on offer reflect her multi faceted personality and styles to the tee.

So far I have loved every album she has released (I even made sure to get a copy of her 1990 debut with The Violet Hour) and after a couple of spins of Ecleptica, I am starting to wonder if this is maybe her strongest effort yet. Yes, with every spin I am loving this album more and more. And while there are many moods and influences throughout this 10 track album, one thing is for sure, this might also well be her rockiest effort ever. And the rocker in me just cannot resist that.
Whether it is the tribal drums in opener The One, the rocky Love App, or the progressive 8+ minute epic (1 of 2, the other one clocking in at almost 10 minutes) I Rather Wear Black, I am really addicted. For me, all 10 songs hit home, and hit home hard. The choruses pick you up, the inventive arrangements keep you interested and the melodies make you want to hear it again.

So if this is your first encounter, or if you already own all her output, this comes heavily and heartily recommended. Outstanding album!

Website

Sunrise Auranaut, The Ocean Of Unspoken Words, 2017

sunrise auranaut - the ocean of unspoken wordsOh my! In my review of the previous album from Vitaly Kiselev’s Sunrise Auranaut I suggested he’d try a more focused approach to his music to attract even more listeners. And while I am not sure it is because of that remark, the thing that is sure is that this album surpasses it’s predecessor on every level.

Let’s start with the artwork, I think this is simply stunning! Next the songs of course. On offer are 9 songs and this time Kiselev (electric and acoustic guitars, bass and programming) got help in from Alexander Malakhov on synths. Total playing time is just over 50 minutes and the songs range from around 4 to over 8 minutes. And like before, this is an all instrumental album with it’s feet firmly rooted in Seventies progressive rock, spiced with the influence of classical composers like Tchaikovsky and Grieg.
But the most important thing for me is the balance in this collection. All songs have room to breathe so the melodies really shine. Since it is a prime example of what is looked upon as the classic era of prog, it is never heavy or flashy. This is all about telling stories with the songs and have the melodies to keep you interested. And that is delivered in spades.

As is the case with all releases on the Rock Company label; limited edition digi, so better grab a copy fast! Excellent stuff.

Website

The Missing Piece, Dream Rider, 2016

The-Missing-Piece-Dream-RiderWith a band name coming from a Gentle Giant album, yes, this is a progressive rock album of sorts. And while the band was founded in the North West of the Netherlands in 2007, they experienced many line up changes. And after recording this album, their female vocalist left. So where does that leave us with?

Well to be clear, the music on this album is pretty accessible. And while lead singer at the time, Nanna Burger, might not have the most exciting voice, she does provide us with decent melodies. For me the best songs are the opening track Closed Doors, the title track and the song Destiny. My main concern with the overall impression of the album is that is seems a bit bland. Only with they shift to a higher gear (with Destiny and other more tranquil parts being the exception) and get the guitars rocking a bit, I am starting to feel energised.
But then again, I am aware that much of the genre fans love their material sticking to a certain sound and formula. So it might be just me. And I do have to mention they are self supporting, and did the recording and mixing themselves.

All in all it is a good start and I do hope this album will give them the confidence to push it a little bit further next time.

Website

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.

 

The Aurora Project, World Of Grey, 2016

the aurora project - world of greyTwo years back The Aurora Project took a serious blow when rhythm guitarist and lyricist Marc Vooijs suddenly died. The band took a year off to decide on their future and the outcome is clear, the band continues, but without replacing Marc. This means their sound is now more rock than metal, with bass and keyboard filling the guitar gaps.

World Of Grey is a concept album based on an idea from Marc but this time Mox stepped in the writing shoes. It deals with the idea that the established world order is increasingly restricting the people and a grey blanket of control and repression descends over the world. How the album art fits in is not quite clear to me, but I guess that is artistic license.
While listening to the album (which does work as single songs by the way) I noticed it took the band a song or 2 to really find their own feet. Opener Expect Us sounds a bit like your regular neo prog band but from then on it is onwards and upwards. Stone Eagle is a great slow burning song, Deadly Embrace another song with catchy melodies and rather tasty guitar work. Okay, sometimes it still sounds a bit Marillionesque, but with more bite, so no problems there.

The band will resume live duties this year, so be on the lookout for that. The songs on this album will work, no doubts in my mind! If you like your prog melodic and with great playing, make sure to listen in.

Website

Shaman Elephant, Crystals, 2016

shaman elephant - crystalsKarisma Records are again bringing us an interesting new band from Norway. So let me introduce you to Shaman Elephant, a 4 piece from the Bergen region. With a style that is firmly rooted in seventies psychedelic and progressive hard rock. The colours on the front cover already hint at that psychedelic part, but let me tell you, a lot of groove is present in this band.

Opening with the title track, an 8+ minutes cracker, that  showcases all you are to expect from the band. Cool riffs, vintage sounds and power. But also more moody parts, extended soloing on guitar and keyboards (Deep Purple anyone?) and convincing melodies. So what more could we ask for? Well, that might be tracks like Shaman In The Woods. That turns out to be filled to the brim with tasty melodies over a steady groove, but does that in less than 5 minutes, so might attract some airplay.
And you gotta love the bass riff opening I.A.B, with that little distorted sound. But in fact every song on offer (6 in total, running 45 minutes) brings something exciting to the table.

Yes it might be retro in parts and roots, but it also has a modern touch and does not sound outdated at all. The album is very expressive, fresh and convinces on all parts. I loved listening to it, so some addiction warning is in order here 🙂

Website

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