Another 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!
What 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!
Peter 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.
Should 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!
Now 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!
Another 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!
Lots 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.
Here 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.
Ah, a French band. And with a female vocalist, should be interesting. Especially when the press sheet talks about a subtle (!) mix of rock, atmospheric prog and metal. Think Pink Floyd mixed with Tool with Anneke van Giersbergen singing.
Well I am not so sure about the name dropping, but what I am sure about is that the band did manage to pull off an interesting album that is indeed succeeding in mixing atmosphere and rock. With a message calling out to keep faith and hope in a world in conflict, as an added bonus.
In true progressive style, the album holds 3 parts of Time Of Awakening, a seperate track in Angel Dust and then 2 parts of Elea.. Together the 3 part title track clocks in at 20 minutes and is a showcase of the styles and talent present in the band. I am not sure about the history of the band, but it all sounds very mature. Lots of dynamics. And they can rock too, with the transparent voice of Laetitia Chaudemanche (who also wrote the lyrics and played keyboards) able to shine over anything the band throws at her. Talking of the band, Terence Nguyen Van has a crisp guitar sound and plays in service to the song, even when it becomes clear he is a gifted player. Bass is provided by Maxime Rami and Nathanaël Buis drummed and created the beautiful artwork. Together they lay down a solid foundation.
All in all a very pleasant surprise, a very moody and melodic album. Will be interesting to see how they develop!
From Finland comes this 5 man instrumental progressive rock band. And while we have discussed instrumental prog here before, Hadal Sherpa manage to add a new dimension to the sounds previously under scrutiny. The album came self released in June 2017 and landed on my desk earlier this year.
So what sets these guys apart from for instance Sunrise Auranaut or Murder And Parliament? Well, one of their main melody instruments is the flute. I think that this not only gives a sometimes folky feel to the melodies, but because of the nature of the instrument, also creates leads that are easy to follow and very melodic. Some of their work has a wonderful Eastern flavour to it. Check for instance Chafa Azeno. And now on to the guitar. It is of course obvious to use the guitar as a solo instrument. But these guys treat their rhythm guitars a bit more different than usual. It’s often more about the groove and feel of the songs, than it is about power. One could consider it more funk than rock, but in this case it works just fine.
I think the best thing about an album like this is that you never miss the vocals. All songs grab you, with good melodies, from whatever instrument they chose to put central stage. So the 8 tracks and over 68 minutes entertain me with ease.
Great job, beautiful artwork too by the way, and an album that crosses borders so should also be of interest to people outside the prog community.
Been listening to this album on and off the last couple of weeks. Released on Bad Elephant Music, this is not your typical prog album. And of course that is a good thing in my book.
Singer and main songwriter Andres Razzini is aware the music does not fit in a neat little box, so when the press sheet talks about a mix of jazz, pop, rock and grunge, you’d better believe it. And while mixing things up is truly progressive (at least in my humble opinion), in this case it does not result in a disjointed affair at all. The music is moody and often melancholic. It also caries an embedded emotion which, combined with the lush arrangements, makes it a pleasant listening. It never is heavy or overly technical, yet the interested ear will notice the deceivingly simple sounding stuff that is testament of the quality on offer. A couple of interludes add extra dimensions to the songs, and serve as a way to give them even more depth.
For me personally the wealth of styles and the quality of the songs creates an impact. Especially when played back to back, the 41 plus minutes of music fly by and leaves you wanting more.
So not fragmented at all, just a beautiful album that deserves your attention. It should also interest people that are more into mainstream music.