Frequency Drift, Letters To Maro, 2018

frequency drift - letters to maroGerman cinematic rock band Frequency Drift return with Letters To Maro. The band around nucleus Nerissa Schwarz and Andreas Heck deliver 11 songs and 1 hour of music that showcase their many talents and broad musical influences.

However, first song Dear Maro, at least in my humble opinion, might throw some listeners off. While I understand the seduction of dramatising the word “Falling”, after many plays I am still not sure it works for me. Luckily the rest of the song makes up for that, especially the middle section with the cello. Overall, the band cut down the heavy guitars, leaving much more space to vibrant sound designs and intriguing arrangements that spark the imagination of the listener.
Take for instance next song Underground. The instrumental middle section of the song is testament to the resourceful approach. But many more songs bring together the wonderful singing and melodies and the clever use of studio techniques, keyboards and more traditional instruments.

The result is inspiring. Even with the depth of the material on offer, many songs will catch your ear with their melodies. Personal favourites are Electricity, Neon (one of the songs where the guitars come back a bit) or the stunning Nine.

An album that let’s you discover new things after repeated play, but still attracts on the first time you hear it, must be doing it right. Highly recommended!

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Phi, Cycles, 2018

Phi - CyclesJust to show you that there is always something new to learn, I present you the album Cycles from Phi. In my case, that lead me thinking this was a debut album. But as it turns out, this is already the 6th album for this Austrian band lead by Markus Bratusa. And what a surprise it has turned out to be!

When you name a band Phi, it raises the expectation that it is a thinking man’s band. So we are talking progressive rock right? Right! The album holds 6 songs and has a total playing time of almost 48 minutes. But these 6 songs had me holding my breath quite often. Not because of technical wizardry, even when the band is more than capable of pulling of exciting breaks, flashy solos and other genre specifics.
No, this album impressed me with songs that are fresh, diverse and just plain great. Melodic where they should be, rocking where they can. The press sheet says it is progressive metal, but that is only the case if you consider Porcupine Tree or Pain Of Salvation metal. For me this is prog rock, even when the guitars regularly take centre stage.

Every song on this album packs a punch. The use of dynamics shows the maturity of a band in balance. I love this album from start to finish, outstanding and certainly one of this year’s highlights in this genre!

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Murder and Parliament, Self Titled, 2017

murder and parliamentNot sure, but think this is the first Bad Elephant release on the blog. With more to follow, rest assured 🙂 Murder And Parliament is in essence Tom Slatter, with the help of Alun Vaughan on bass and Chrissie Caulfield on violin.

What Murder And Parliament bring is instrumental music that most people will categorize as progressive. When comparing this to for instance Sunrise Auranaut, this turns out a completely different animal. This goes from ambient soundscapes to thriving rock.
I guess for many the complexity will come across as similar to that of SA, but I think the biggest difference is that Murder And Parliament more often use recurring themes and melodies. Sometimes to such an extent that the melodies overcome the complexity and songs like Crookedness or Firecracker nest themselves pretty quick in your system. Which will surely help them to find their audience.
While I understand that instrumental music is not for everybody, when the melodies are good and recognisable, this helps to connect to the music. So in that light, this is a release that should find a home with many prog heads.

It never gets too heavy or too complex, shows a clever sense of arranging and the songs are just too good to ignore. Yes you need to keep an open mind about it, but it will be worth it. Job well done!

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Widetrack, III, 2018

widetrack -3The story behind this band is quite interesting. And maybe even holds a lesson or two. After he lost his father at the young age of 57 in 2006, Ron Tippin (vocals, guitars and drums) decided to skip all excuses and do something with all the songs he had been writing. The result being a first Widetrack album in 2007, and a second in 2009. After more turmoil, the recently released third album is the next milestone. One which now also includes his young son Zach on bass. Completing the current line up is Brian Burleson on lead guitar.

The music of this trio is said to be a mix of the progressive tones of Pink Floyd, Tool and Porcupine Tree on one hand, and the more grungy sounds of Soundgarden and Queens Of The Stone Age on the other. Well, the excellent singing mostly reminded me of UK prog metallers Awake By Design, with the music indeed baring a more melancholic signature, just like mr. Wilson likes to put into his songs.
The result is an album that listens away with a remarkable ease. Nowhere the band are trying to impress with technical ecstasy. But they impress with bringing songs that hold your attention from start to finish. From opener Burn the Sun to closer Still Here, the 12 tracks show maturity in delivery and a clear focus of what the band wants to be.

Call it alterna-prog, call it what you want. The culmination of said influences  is an album that excites. Bravo gents!

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Syzygy, Misconnected Man, 2017

syzygy - misconnected manFrom Gainesville Florida, USA, comes this trio, an alignment of 3 celestial objects (which is what Syzygy literally means). And while this is not their first release, this is de facto their official full length debut. And when I add that it contains 6 tracks and totals almost an hour of music,  all bets are off as to what musical genre we can expect. But beware of confusion, I know of another US band called Syzygy that released for instance A Glorious Disturbance in 2012, but that seems a whole other band.

I don’t think any progressive rock trio can avoid being compared to Rush, and in this case we are talking pre keyboards Rush. So the music is an amalgam of styles yet will stay firmly within rock territory. In first song, the title track Misconnected Man, we are not only treated with more twist and turns than the average coastal highway, it also features a great lyric! Talking of lyrics, most of them are fairly short, the band seem hooked on throwing in a bunch of instrumental ideas and go places. Luckily they know how to keep it all together so they never lose the plot. Another good thing is they not only vary themes and rhythms, but are not afraid to put dynamics to good use either. So a song can go from almost whisper soft to metallic and will keep you on your toes.

All in all I really enjoyed listening to this and am confident that prog aficionados will too.

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Sunrise Auranaut, Inserter, 2018

sunrise auranaut - inserterAlbum number 5 already for Russian multi-instrumentalist Vitaly Kiselev. Again with help from Alexander Malakhov on synthesisers. Besides writing and playing and producing, Kiselev is also responsible for the beautiful artwork on the release.

If you already are familiar with the music from Sunrise Auranaut, then expect 10 more songs in the same instrumental progressive rock vein. Influenced by classical composers like Grieg and Tchaikovsky and the prog of the Seventies. So this is once again music meant for people wanting complexity and who are willing to invest time to get to really know the album.
Yet in my ears this album sounds more powerful and focused than ever before. A track like Keeper Of The Forest Castle even has some hooks one can identify easily with! And this happens more often, making this one more attractive for a larger audience. But there is also a track like Fog, built around airy sounds which is breathing a bit of King Crimson styled ambience. Still there is a lot happening of course, like I said, this is complex music. But above all it is well written, and executed with passion and precision. Check for instance how synthesisers and guitars interweave in the opening segments of Identification Man.
Another thing worth mentioning is the tribute to the Black Star himself, David Bowie, in closing track Hello Star Man!  You can check that in the video below.

In my humble opinion Kiselev keeps improving and growing, hats off!

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Tautologic, Re:Psychle, 2018

tautologic - re psychleReading through the press info I noticed this album is inspired by real life people from Chicago. Combine that with the play with words in the title of the CD and you might wonder how intense this is going to get…

Well let me assure you, for a prog album, this is a remarkably light footed effort. And I mean that in a very positive way. First because there are no epics here as songs range from 2 to 6 minutes. Second it is because of the positive vibes I get from the songs. The way they are arranged might help, as overall I am finding this upbeat, with great singing and harmonies. Over sometimes poppy and sometimes more complex themes , it is still prog after all. Add to this the sometimes achingly beautiful instrumental parts (using violin, cello, flutes, sax, trombone etc, really creates great atmospheric music), and the scene is set for an album that demands your attention and rewards your time with making you feel good about yourself.
And the best thing about it all is, at least in my book, I never ever once thought it was going nowhere. The songs are precise, deliver every note and beat with intent and nothing outstays their welcome. And because of the often catchy melodies I am sure a lot of people outside the “prog community” would find this a worthwhile addition to their collection!

So do not hesitate, give this a spin!

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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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Marygold, One Light Year, 2017

marygold - one light yearOh, this must be the wet dream for those progressive rock lovers that keep stuck in the seventies. Italian band Marygold have delivered an album that sounds modern and up to date, but is filled to the brim with the musical concepts that formed that classic era of prog.
And is that a bad thing? Well, I suppose that depends on where you stand on the matter. Is it really progressive to play music akin so much to that fruitful period in time? But let’s not get trapped in that discussion and focus on what the band deliver.

And what the album brings, besides the unique vocal delivery of Guido Cavalleri (who also adds flute), is 7 songs with a total playing time of over 56 minutes. So yes, there are two 10 plus minute epics present. But most of all, the release has depth and attracts the listener with well written and executed songs. I hear a lot of influences from the neo-prog of early Marillion, so it is no surprise various members once started in a Marillion cover band.
But no all too obvious copying here, the band convince in every department. The songs flow, and are kept in balance with clever arrangements and solos and or breaks on the right spot. All enhanced by a transparent, yet powerful production.

So in itself a very pleasing album to listen to, and one that will be lapped up by the prog community.

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Claudio Delgift, One Life Many Roads, 2018

claudio delgift - one life many roadsClaudio Delgift is a musician from Argentina, who is also known as “C” or Delgift. His main instrument is the guitar (which he masters) but you can also find him on other instruments as well as vocals. I know of at least 3 albums, but am not sure about his total discography so far.

One Life Many Roads is his current album and I think this can be categorized as progressive rock, even when some songs or parts lean on blues. Opening with the 10+ minute Diamond Heart, his prowess on the guitar can be heard throughout the song. Not only electric, but also on acoustic.  Vortex is the first time we hear him sing. Now his voice may not be everyone’s taste, but it is honest and authentic.  And fair is fair, the song still impresses through his playing skills. Not that he is a very fast shredder by the way. Delgift is more about moods and feel. Highlighted in for instance track 3, Song For You. Great melodies and hooks. Life Element is a song where that bluesy feel prevails. The guitar is used in many ways, to riff, to play melodies, chords and solos, maybe influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Nice groove too! On Rogue’s Day Out I am strangely reminded of Robert Plant during his days when Robbie Blunt was his guitar player. There are 4 more songs to enjoy, including a wonderful acoustic workout called The Marketplace.

So when you love stellar playing and variety, this is an album to check!

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