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Saturday, November 28, 2015

John Wetton - Volume 1: The Studio Recordings Anthology

I’ve always been a fan of John Wetton’s work since 2001 when I was a freshman in High School with his days from King Crimson. He has been a busy man from day one alongside with Crimson, he worked with Asia, UK, Roxy Music, Family, and one of my favorites from the obscure Prog-Rock gems, Mogul Thrash. You could tell he shines through his vocals as he hits those notes whether he plays both Bass and Guitar.

That and this 2-CD anthology set which covers his time as a solo artist. There’s also a 15-page booklet, which contains liner notes by Nick Shilton, which features an interview by Wetton himself and the albums, he has done. It’s hard for me to pick which tracks on the 2-CD set because there are 32 tracks on here and I had to pick a few highlights on the anthology set which is the first volume of the studio recordings that he’s done.

Again, mind you, I’m not a huge fan of his solo work, but there are some centerpieces that show he’s more than just a sideman. Say It Ain’t So sees John going back into his roots of the sound of Asia’s sole self-titled debut album. It’s almost as if it’s a continuation of the hit classic, Heat of the Moment. But with an early 1980s AOR sound that captures the essence of the track that has a sing-along and fanfare composition with a stomping rhythm.

John Wetton brings some of his friends to lend a helping hand and letting him know they got his back. With Arkangel it is a haunting ballad that deals with being on the face of danger, but with the guardian around the people, there is hope when there is none. Robert Fripp comes in with his guitar improvisation and sends in the chilling notes coming in.

Elsewhere Free/Bad Company’s Simon Kirke on Drums comes into the picture with Cold is the Night. It is a reminiscent between Paul McCartney & Wings Venus & Furs-era and Genesis Wind & Wuthering-era. The piece has a calming yet ascending rhythm while the ¾ Celtic Folk-waltz brings the beauty of Jacques Brel and the Beatles music featuring Billy Sherwood (Yes) and Geoff Downes (Yes, The Buggles) bringing the forest atmosphere on Bass and flute Keyboards for Steffi’s Ring.

Symphonic acoustical beauty comes into mind for the Real World. It deals with where we are living right now. Even though there’s a perfect wonder, there is also a darker side to it. And Genesis own Steve Hackett’s harmonica brings an emotional side to the atmosphere with a Dylansque touch. And Hackett, with his guitar playing, he plays the harmonica very well and nails it down.

I’ve listened to the 2-CD set three times now. And it’s a very interesting compilation from start to finish. It’s more to just his work with King Crimson and Asia, but he can write very well on his songwriting to show his craftsmanship to the tables and see where he can come up with next. And if you love some of the bands that I’ve mentioned in the beginning, then this will be a perfect Hanukkah or Christmas gift to all and you might want to ask Santa if he admires the music of John Wetton.

Friday, November 27, 2015

The Top 30 Albums of 2015 and Honorable Mentions

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you the top 30 albums of 2015 and my Honorable Mentions. Criticism is welcome.

1. Gazpacho – Molok (Kscope)
2. Steven Wilson – Hand.Cannot.Erase (Kscope)
3. La Coscienza Di Zeno – La Notte Anche Di Giorno (AltrOck/Fading)
4. Gentle Knife – Gentle Knife (Bajkal Records)
5. Guapo – Obscure Knowledge (Cuneiform)
6. Not a Good Sign – From a Distance (AltrOck/Fading)
7. Spettri – 2973 La Nemica Dei Ricordi (Black Widow Records)
8. William D. Drake – Revere Reach (Onomatopeia)
9. Slivovitz – All You Can Eat (MoonJune)
10. IO Earth – New World (Self-Released)
11. Edge of Paradise – Immortal Waltz (Pure Rock Records)
12. Beardfish – +4626-Comfortzone (Inside Out)
13. Horisont – Odyssey (Rise Above Records)
14. Echolyn – I Heard You Listening (Self-Released)
15. Alco Frisbass – Alco Frisbass (AltrOck/Fading)
16. Vly – I / [Time] (The Laser’s Edge)
17. La Fabrica Dell’assoluto – 1984: L’Ultimo Uomo D’Europa (Black Widow Records)
18. The Aaron Clift Experiment – Outer Light, Inner Darkness (Self-Released)
19. Marbin – Aggressive Hippies (MoonJune)
20. The Receiver – All Burn (Kscope)
21. Between the Buried and Me – Coma Ecliptic (Metal Blade Records)
22. Galley Beggar – Silence and Tears (Rise Above Records)
23. Opposite Day – Space Taste Race Part 2 (Future Banana Replacement)
24. Unit Wail – Beyond Space Edges (Soleil Zeuhl)
25. Korekyojin – Fall Line (Magabitsu Records)
26. Pixel – Golden Years (Cuneiform)
27. Sanguine Hum – Now We Have Light (Esoteric Antenna)
28. Biglietto Per L'Inferno – Vivi.Lotta.Pensa (AMS Records)
29. Loomings – Everyday Mythology (AltrOck Records)
30. Sweet Billy Pilgrim – Motorcade Amnesiacs (Kscope)

Honorable Mentions and Reissues:
Anekdoten - Until All the Ghosts are Gone (Virta)
Mollamskin - Heartbreak In ((Stereo)) (Autumnsongs Records)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - The Night Creeper (Rise Above Records)
Lucifer - Lucifer I (Rise Above Records)
Ligro - Dictionary 9 (MoonJune)
Dwiki Dharmawan - So Far So Close (MoonJune)
XaDu - Random Abstract (MoonJune)
City Boy - Reissues (Lemon Recordings)
Jethro Tull - Too Old To Rock & Roll; Too Young To Die! [TV Special Edition] (Chrysalis)
Opeth - Deliverance & Damnation (Sony/Music for Nation)
XTC - Oranges & Lemons (Ape Music)

Fields - Contrasts: Urban Roar to Country Piece (Esoteric Recordings)
FM - Transformation (Esoteric Antenna)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Loomings - Everyday Mythology

Loomings are one of the strangest, yet mind-boggling bands that launched back in 2012 by Italian musician and composer Jacopo Costa (Yugen, Empty Days, Camembert) whilst living in Strasbourg, France. He brought along vocalists Maria Denami, Ludmila Schwatzwaler, and Benoit Rameau to bring in the Chamber music, Avant-Rock, Zeuhl, and Rock in Opposition influences followed by Bassist Louis Haessler, and percussionists Enrico Pedicone.

Their debut album released on the AltrOck label this year entitled, Everyday Mythology, is challenging, intriguing, and unexpected momentum that will have the jaws dropped at the right moment to listen and hear what they will think of next. The influences of Frank Zappa’s 200 Motels-era, Ramases, Gentle Giant, and Present, that I can hear in the band’s music is like a wild-like flower ready to burst with amazing results.

The three vocalists, blew me away from the moment I put the CD on from start to finish. It’s operatic, chilling, and at times experimental. But they also have a sense of humor into their music which would have made the Grand Wazoo himself very proud of. Since I’ve mentioned about the four influences, you could tell from the moment they were recording the album at different studios, that they were having a great time and showing that not doing to show-off, but to get a real kick out of it and enjoy it. The three highlights show how much they know their musical taste.

Sweet Sixteen is poking fun at the ‘50s doo-wop sounds with the sounds of Ramases Glass Top Coffin-era as if it was recorded in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, and used during the end credits for Peter Jackson’s adult puppet humor twist of The Muppet Show of Meet the Feebles. The opener, Keywords has a dystopian trip-hop essence of the Beastie Boys meets Schizoid Lloyd with an avant-rock intensity as the Glockenspiel’s go into challenging mode between both Jacopo and Enrico as the stop-and-go operatic sounds with a Gyorgi Ligeti vibe is a chilling atmosphere.

Louis’ Bass sets a colder tone that gives me chills for the first two minutes on The Things That Change. He goes through a darker hallway for the listener to step into and expect for them feel as if someone is behind them. With a jazzier and doomier vibration followed by the sax playing of Isabella Fabbri in the earlier part of the composition, she gives him free-rein before the militant style of drumming and crescendo’s just jumps at you and the essence of Pierrot Lunaire vocalist Jacqueline Darby, it’s hard to describe it. 

The dooming and thumping electronic nightmarish finale of Milano, sees Loomings almost doing a score for George Orwell's dystopian 1984 and the voices, chanting sets the tones of nightmarish world of what it was, turned into a hellish atmosphere. This is my second and fourth time listening to Loomings debut album. This was a big challenge and I wish could name the other centerpieces, but for me, I just can’t get enough of this! AltrOck know their RIO and Chamber Rock very well. And for me, I’ve been getting a kick out of it from start to finish. Jacopo has done an amazing job here with this big time!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

La Fabbrica Dell'Assoluto - 1984: L'Ultimo Uomo D'Europa

Black Widow Records along with labels including MoonJune, Cuneiform, Rune Grammofon, Rise Above Records, and Esoteric, are some of the record labels I’ve championed. And one of the up-and-coming bands that have taken me by surprise is a group that are carrying the sounds of the Rock Progressivo Italiano sound from Rome called La Fabbrica Dell’Assoluto. Launched back in 2013, their sound expresses the essence of the Progressive genre and they take it with the band member’s inspirations in the roots of their influences.

That and their debut album, 1984: L’Ultimo Uomo D’Europa, is inspired by George Orwell’s dystopian classic and bring the sinister, ominous, and haunting brilliance to his vision and make it the world of hell into amazing results. The band considers; Claudio Cassio on Lead Vocals, Marco Piloni on Bass Guitar, Michele Ricciardi on Drums and Percussion, Daniele Fuligini on Keyboards, and Daniele Sopranzi on Guitar.

Along with bands who are following the RPI sound with La Cosceizna Di Zeno, Not a Good Sign, Unreal City, and il Bacio Della Medusa, La Fabbrica Dell’Assoulto captures not just the genre, but who along with the four groups I’ve mentioned, to carry the torch and not let the fire go out, but to make sure it keeps burning brightly. I can hear the sounds of Murple, Banco Del Mutuo Soccorso, Premiata Forneria Marconi, Museo Rosenbach and the Nursery Cryme-era of Genesis.

And that is not fluking around, they are knowing what they are doing. Fuligini for example, he examines the essence of Keith Emerson, Tony Banks, and Vittorio Nocenzi which is evidential on Lo Sguardo Nel Quadro. And his organ is on fire when he plays to create the dramatic tempos followed by the stop-and-go moments between Sopranzi’s guitar, Marco’s Bass, and Michele’s drumming and he’s almost as if he is the conductor to tell them where he wants the members to delve into.

It’s also classical with a symphonic attitude while the ambient/atmospheric futuristic view of a wasteland turned into a theatrical beauty, shows the evidence on La Ballata dei Prolet. Claudio can really sing very well as he sends shivers down on my spine before going into the Deep Purple MKII-era and I Giganti’s Terra in Bocca route seguing to L’Occhio Del Teleschermo as Sopranzi channels the sounds of Ritchie Blackmore and Steve Hackett.

Claudio’s vocals is very much into the realms of an essence of the Edgar Allen Poe technique and a dosage of Peter Hammill and il Balletto Di Bronzo's Gianni Leone that he brings forth the theatrical side to him. And it’s a knock-out when he sings. But it’s the 12-minute suite, Processo Di Omologazione, is where they go into the Prog Doom Metal approach. 

With blaring duel intensity between Fuligini and Sopranzi, they really go in the sounds of the improvisations as if who can come up with the best leads with the stop-and-go momentum.
Fuligini shines through his keyboards as he goes through the Moog, Hammond Organ, and the Mellotron to bring the drama and intensity on what is happening to Winston Smith, the character from 1984. And it’s a disturbing momentum with the jazzier midsection in an ominous tone thanks to the laid-back drumming by Michele Riccardi and the Gilmour-sque guitar sounds of the Floyd by Daniele Sopranzi.

I have listened to 1984: L’Ultimo Uomo D’Europa, about ten times now. And I just can’t get enough of it. I hope La Fabbrica Dell’Assoluto does more in the near future to surprise me more. And they nailed it perfectly with their debut. Black Widow Records have scored a home run for me on this. If George Orwell was alive right now, he would appreciate this big time. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

The Top 10 Reissues of 2015

Now before I name the top 30 albums of 2015 which will be up this weekend, I decided to go ahead and name the top 10 reissues of 2015. Criticism is welcomed. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you again, The Top 10 reissues of this year. Here it is:

1. Procol Harum – Reissues [Esoteric Recordings]
2. Yes – Fragile [Panegyric Records]
3. Gentle Giant – Octopus [Alucard Productions]
4. Kestrel – Kestrel [Esoteric Recordings]
5. Spring – Spring [Esoteric Recordings]
6. Audience – House on the Hill [Esoteric Recordings]
7. Jethro Tull – Minstrel in the Gallery: 40th Anniversary La Grande Edition [Chrysalis]
8. The Beatles – 1 (CD/Blu-Ray) [Captiol Records]
9. Burnin’ Red Ivanhoe – W.W.W. [Esoteric Recordings]
10. Junior’s Eyes – Battersea Power Station [Esoteric Recordings]

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Arcade Messiah - Arcade Messiah II

John Bassett (Kingbathmat) has never disappointed me since hearing one of his projects for the Post-Rock and Post-Metal futuristic sounds of the instrumental post-metal project, Arcade Messiah. Since hearing the debut of sole self-titled release back last year on the Sterohead Records label, Bassett brings the Messiah back into the machine again with Arcade Messiah II.  And he is starting to come full circle with the second album. And the six highlights on here, shows Bassett himself is a master.

There are nine tracks in which one of them is a bonus track in which it’s his take of Aphrodite’s Child’s The Four Horsemen, which it’s released on CD and on LP format on the Fruits de Mer Records label as a part of the 4-LP box set entitled Side Effects. The take of the classic track from 666, which clocks in at 18-minutes, has a 21st century flavor with an outer voyage spacey twist that resembles Radiohead’s The Bends-era. And the vocals carry the robotic and spooky element with the Leslie Speaker vibe to create that atmosphere.

The blaring guitars go into the harder edges and with a melodic twist that have riffs, rhythms, and improvisation between the reminiscent of Mastodon, Mike Oldfield, and Tom Newman with the Red Widow. The rising opener Moon Signal goes with a cinematic-like scores to a whole new world. It has this nightmarish intensity on the rhythm section while going into a relaxing ambient composition as it ends with sending signals to an abrupt end with Gallows Way.

Via Occulta begins with a dystopian futuristic ghost-town score in a ballad tone before seguing to head towards as they Read The Sky. It is a Progressive Post-Metal with a cross between David Bowie, Metallica, and King Crimson into a blender. The techniques are riveting and mammoth at the same time like John was bringing the incredible dynamics on the instruments as if he is the captain of the Millennium Falcon and going to get to make the jump to lightspeed.

This is my fourth and fifth time listening to the second album of Arcade Messiah. And John himself as I’ve mentioned earlier in my introduction, never disappoints me. This is the finest album that John has released. With elements of the Prog, Post-Rock, Post-Metal sounds thrown into the mix, Arcade Messiah’s II is almost as I’ve mentioned on previous albums, the soundtrack inside your head.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Zirque Bois D'Arc - Things I Should've Done Better

Showing for my love of Austin’s Progressive Rock bands including Opposite Day, Proud Peasant, and the Stop Motion Orchestra, it shows that they have no sign of stopping on where the Texas state will go into next to see what will lie ahead. One of the guitarists that have just had my ears bright up is a guitarist named Zirque Bois D’arc. It’s an alter-ego name for Eric Roach. He has been performing in bands in the Austin area such as; Lick Lick, Baby Got Bacteria, and the bluegrass stylings of The Fencesitters.

Eric himself has been performing since the 1980s with over 100 live acts as a contributing member whilst there is no stop sign for him anywhere as he trucks on powerfully and seeing where he will go to next. Things I Should’ve Done Better is his first solo album. He recorded the music and demoed his compositions four years ago in Los Angeles. And what you are about to hear is a dystopian universe set with hypnotic guitar improvisations from Zirque.

He brought along people such as Sam Arnold (Opposite Day) on Bass, Drummers David Hobizal (Eddy Hobizal’s brother), Pat Kennedy, and Chuck Fischer (The Invisible Czars), Matt Kelly (Lick Lick) on Organ, and Pianist Peter Stopschinski. Not to mention a Horn and String section on the album. But let’s get straight to the music. The music itself is a haunting, surreal, avant-garde, and experimental voyage into the world that’s was once peaceful, turned into hell.

And Eric’s music sets the atmosphere of where he takes his guitar into those areas. There are 15 compositions on the album that just take me by surprise throughout the entire structure, almost as if he's following in the footsteps of Danny Elfman and Fred Frith (Henry Cow). I can hear some of the Rock In Opposition sounds that resembles as if it was recorded in the mid ‘70s that he’s nailed.

On the two tracks, Drive and Shining, he’s channeling Fred’s improvisations and Roger Trigaux (Univers Zero, Present) with a Zappa twist to it. And he’s isn’t showing off, he is really showing his chops and it is bone-chilling that can be alarming and sinister. The galloping and crescendo drumming techniques from David Hobizal and Sam’s bass going into some incredible fretwork that has both a Jaco and Jannick Top flavor to it, shows teamwork.

Gggggg has this underwater funky wah-wah psychedelic groove with a quirky and wacky ride while ASDF features a bluesy calm movement with an alarming horn section before seguing into the thumping unexpected signatures of a Hendrix-sque style that resembles the Axis: Bold as Love-era on Flirt. Experimental, electronic, and classical come together in full circle with News.

The eerie synths, string section, and nightmarish guitar lines just made my arm-hairs going up on where Stopchinski arranged for them to see where Eric wants the strings to head into. Peter knows exactly where the sounds with the chamber-sque beauty to it and a blaring intensity, makes it raw.

This is my fourth time listening to Things I Should’ve Done Better. And Eric Roach really has come into a circle that is now full. And I really had a blast enjoying this album with the virtuosity, Crimson-sque, and unexpected momentum that he’s unleashed this year and his new album, Songs About Russia which I will delve into later on. But his debut album, is a mind-blowing experience that just made me want to play more and more of Eric’s music.

Compelling, Complex, Experimental, and Avant-Garde, Ziroque Bois D’Arc’s debut is an adventurous and energetic.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Korekyojinn - Fall Line

When I first heard Korekyojinn’s music. I didn’t know what to think of it. But from the moment I bought their eighth album entitled, Fall Line from Wayside Music, I knew something special was about to land on my old portable CD player. And once the CD was in there, I couldn’t take it off. The band launched back seventeen years ago in Japan by Ruins Alone drummer Yoshida Tatsuya, who also has his own record label entitled Magaibutsu, in which my introduction to him was on the Romantic Warriors series in the second installment of the Rock In Opposition movement (RIO).

They have released seven albums on John Zorn’s label, Tzadik Records and on Skin Graft Records. The band’s name is translated to “This Giant”. It’s a sly touch to bands such as; This Heat and Gentle Giant. In which they were inspired by. The band’s music has a RIO and Zeuhl flavor to their sound in which Yoshida, guitarist Natuski Kido and bassist Mitsuru Nasuno bring the energy, fierce, and in-your-face futuristic rock sounds to a cosmic voyage of Jazz-Rock with a harder edge to it.

Fall Line is a balls-to-the-wall improvisational album that will be completely on the edge of your seat as the trio go into some mind-boggling and wildest sounds they bring to the Zeuhl and Rock in Opposition sounds that will have your eye brows go up at any second. Mitsuru is creating some incredible bass lines that are jaw-dropping momentum.

He is like a fly on the wall as he goes through various solos and improvisations that is like a speeding car going at 700 miles per hour without anyone stopping him along with Yoshida’s drumming and Natuski’s guitar playing. They have this combination along the trio that resembles the essence of Jannick Top, Christian Vander, Manuel Gottsching, Robert Fripp, Tony Iommi, and Frank Zappa rolled into one.

Now, mind you, I’m new to Korekyojinn. The eight compositions on here, I wish I could name some highlights on the album, but I just can’t get enough of it! Difficult time signatures aside, the trio can take you on those magic carpet rides with an extreme powder keg waiting to happen at the right moment.

This is my third or fourth time listening to the band’s album, and I have to admit, this really almost made me head-bang throughout the whole compositions from start to finish. I might check out some of Korekyojinn’s music throughout this year or next year to see what they have up my sleeves to give me more goosebumps on where they will go into next.

As we are getting ready to get the Turkey in the oven for Thanksgiving next week, and Christmas coming up in a couple of weeks, you might want to get your Christmas wish list ready! Please ask Santa Claus if he loves the music the Zeuhl, Rock in Opposition, and the Progressive Rock genre, put it on your wish list. This is a perfect Christmas gift for fans of Magma, King Crimson’s Red-era, and Frank Zappa. Fall Line is highly recommended to delve into the pool and swim into the sounds of Korekyojinn.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

East of Eden - Mercator Projected

Now for me, as you read this blog, I’ve been a champion of the reissue label of Esoteric Recordings which is a part of the Cherry Red family that releases obscure gems that launched back eight years ago by Mark Powell. One of the bands that have landed on my feet a few milky-ways ago was a band called East of Eden. I’ve read about them when Sid Smith mentioned about them on his own top 30 albums on Postcards from the Yellow Room in the summer of 2007 along with Centipede, Egg, and one of my favorites, Premiata Forneria Marconi.

This year, I’ve re-discovered their music. After supporters including Lee Dorrian (Napalm Death/Cathedral) founder of the Rise Above Records label which he mentioned their first album on the top 20 obscure prog/psych albums in which it was issued back in 2009 as a part of the 150 albums you need to listen to before you die from Classic Rock Magazine, and the late great John Peel. It’s time to head back in to the hemispheres of the sound of East of Eden since their formation back in 1967 in Bristol as originally known as the Pictures of Dorian Gray.

Originally released on the Deram label in 1969 and reissued by Esoteric in 2008, they were one of the early pioneers of the Prog genre. Often they were beginners of the Symphonic Rock sound, but it’s more than just the orchestral sound. It’s has a middle-eastern sound, with a Jazz and Blues Rock touch to it along with the sound of Experimental & World Music on their debut, Mercator Projected.

There’s a haunting sound thanks to the sound of Dave Arbus’ violin, who would later do the climatic finale solo on The Who’s Baba O’Riley, brings a dramatic and sinister tone on his instrument. And not to mention alongside Dave there’s; Geoff Nicholson on Guitar and Vocals, Ron Caines on Alto Sax, Steve York on Bass, Harmonica, and Indian Thumb Piano, and Dave Dufont on Drums and Percussion.

The blaring harmonica blues rock-out improvisation with York’s bass lines give it a punching groove as he takes center stage to show a lot of his ideas with the freak-out punch on Centaur Woman in which it talks about a half-woman, half-beast and Steve’s improvisation nails it down to bring the sound of thunder. Opener, Northern Hemisphere has a Doors-like introduction that resembles The Soft Parade-era between guitar, bass, and violin which kicks it off with a riff and the lyrics dealing with the fall of the western civilization.

And the vocals which goes through both the Leslie Speaker and the Dalek-like spoken word dialogue, gives it a chilling scenery and not to mention the sound of the changing channel and increasing tempo to head back into the opening lines. Waterways goes into the darker territories in the 5/4 time signature essence of Amon Duul II’s pre-Phallus Dei momentum for the improvisations.

With Geoffrey’s Egyptian guitar solo and the thumb piano creates tension and drama followed of Ron Caines alto saxophone going into a raga/screeching powder keg ready to explode at any minute for a climatic end, It’s chilling and has a dystopian beauty to it. The Bartok influences fits into the inspirations for East of Eden’s roots. 

The galloping drums and double-tracking vocals that Geoff does in Communion shows. I could imagine the Alice Cooper band listening to this along with King Crimson for the inspiration for Halo of Flies for the Killer sessions and the increasing sound with the screeching violin and the little story-telling and humor at the end with a burst of laughter shows that they have a sense of humor.

But it’s the 8-minute closer In the Stable of the Sphinx in which it deals with getting the news spread very fast in the desert. This is where East of Eden come into play as they blast into space of the Jazz Rock improvisations with a lot of intentions and goals to create free-rein into their music and it’s a send-off as the five piece get into the psychedelic jazz power with fierce energy.

The bonus tracks two demos they did for Waterways and In the Stable of the Sphinx that goes for 11-minutes. But their take of the Byrds classic, Eight Miles High is a classic interpretation of the song with a Jazz approach and nailing it well that I really get a kick out of. The booklet contains promos and photographs of the band, tour dates, and posters.

I really enjoyed and adored East of Eden’s debut album. The power, the mystery, and the avant-garde sounds, give it that darker atmosphere that just gives me goosebumps every time I listen to their debut. So if you love the obscure side of the Prog/Psych genre, then delve into the music of East of Eden’s Mercator Projected. 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Yes - Fragile

With their third album in toe of The Yes Album under their belt and bringing Rick Wakeman from the Strawbs into replacing Tony Kaye as he would form Badger, it was the beginning of the golden-era of Yes career as they were about to climb the boat and sail into other lands that will soon become their classic which was their fourth entitled, Fragile. That and the Definitive Edition reissue CD release this year from the Panegyric label, shows that this reissue is the perfect time to relive those memories.

The reissue which includes the CD in a new stereo mix done by the Wizard of 5.1 mixes of Steven Wilson and also including the Blu-Ray/DVD release of the album in different formats including the original mix, 2015 mix, the Rhino 2002 mix, and the Vinyl needle drop transfer. The new mix that Wilson has done on here, is spectacular and the clarity itself is much better and you can close your eyes and imagine listening to the album all over again.

What I love about the reissue of Fragile is not just the album itself, but the additional bonus tracks that are on here. There is the rehearsal take and early mixes of Roundabout and South Side of the Sky, a full version of We Have Heaven along with the acapella version, and All Fighters Past. Now this track is a killer. This was an earlier beginning their sixth album, Tales from Topographic Oceans.

But it’s a wonderful composition featuring the late great Chris Squire’s Rickenbacker Bass nailing those chops with a crunching sound followed by Steve Howe’s guitar, Rick Wakeman’s organ work, and Bruford’s drumming setting the fantasy tones to embark an amazing journey on what you are exploring to delve into. But I’m getting off-track, let’s get straight to the album.

Steve Howe brings his classical guitar roots into the mix with a flamenco marimba influence on Mood for a Day while Squire’s bass goes into a funk-overdrive with The Fish (Schlindleria Praematurus) with the harmonic sounds between him and Howe as they create the improvisations of a fantasy twist. Bill Bruford’s composition of Five Percent for Nothing was originally known as Suddenly It’s Wednesday, shows Bill at his best creating some of the intense drum work on dealing with the contracts and not getting the royalties they deserve from their former manager.

Rick Wakeman brings a shining torch to the keyboards on the Organ and Harpischord of the third movement of Symphony No. 4 in E Minor on Cans and Brahams. The dramatic finale of Heart of the Sunrise is a classic. I can hear the clarity of the Piano, Synths, along with the Bass sections and Mellotron parts in the opening adventurous wonders of Roundabout. But again on the piano part, Steven raised it up that was buried in the multi-tracks along with the synths.

Which was unearthed and had my eyebrows lit-up hearing that. But it’s Chris Squire’s thunderous riff on the Bass that will send chills down to the spine as he nails it down to a “T”. It’s spacey, mind-blowing, and spellbinding at the same time he goes into town to take it to a whole new level. With Bill’s drumming, Rick’s keyboards, Jon’s vocals, and Steve’s guitar, it makes us know why Chris brought the force and energy of Yes.

The 14-page booklet contains original sketch designs by Roger Dean including the logo, liner notes by Sid Smith, interviews with the band, pictures of the group, archive tickets, singles, and the first presses of Fragile in the UK, US, and in France. 2015 with the passing of Chris Squire, it makes us know that the legacy of Yes will live on. And this amazing definitive edition that Steven Wilson has done on the new mixing, brings emotional beauty and dream onto the heart of the sunrise.

The Giraffes - Usury

The Giraffes formed nineteen years ago in their hometown in Brooklyn. They are for me one of the most jaw-dropping and electrifying bands I’ve listened to. And while I’m new to the band’s music, this is like a cannonball going off at the right exact moment for an eruptive explosion that will send shivers down to the spine. Despite line-up changes, they really got my attention of the music.

It’s this mixture between, Doom, Sludge, Punk, Thrash, and Hard Rock rolled up into a giant blender that makes the performances into a mind-blowing experience for audience to participate they’ll never forget. This year, they released their sixth album entitled Usury on the Silver Sleeves Records label in which they are the first band to be signed to the label. With their live shows being fierce and notorious with an unstoppable audience participation, they have toured with Eagles of Death Metal, Skeleton Key, and The Vacation to name a few.

Not to mention sharing the stage with Fishbone, The Strokes, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. And knowing they have done their job right! Despite line-up changes, they reformed back last year and sold out shows between Brooklyn and Denver as they show no sign of stopping. And from the moment I put on Usury on my portable CD player, I knew something unexpected was about to happen with an amazing positive vibration.

Blood Will Run opens the track out with a big bang. It starts off with a dooming introduction done by guitarist Damien Paris and the haunting vocals by Aaron Lazar followed by the calming bass line and drumming of Josh Taggart and Andrew Totolos. It has this essence of Black Sabbath’s Hand of Doom before kicking off in a thumping nightmare ascending roar. Not to mention the pumping sludge sounds of Mastodon thrown in as well.

Damien is on fire in his guitar playing as he capturing the spirit of Tony Iommi and Aaron Lazar’s vocals remind me of Brann Dailor (Mastodon). It’s a killing track that kicks things off while going into a mid-fast driven mixture between of both Punk and Thrash Metal with the Doom approach thrown in together in political roars on both Facebook Rant and Product Placement.

Damien’s guitar gives it a beast-like horror score on the “ba-ba-ba bum!” for an intro as a riff as if the song, Washing Machine hits perfectly with brainwashing and controlling the cities and knowing when the terror is right around the corner and the choices that can come unexpected with the one chance on getting it right but collapsing all of a sudden. It has a dystopian story on what was, now it is hell on earth.

White Jacket goes into a late ‘60s garage-psychedelic atmosphere. It shows The Giraffes heading into a powerful psych-hard rock flavor in their sound that had my arm hair’s go up at the right moment with the rhythm and echoing reverbs that Damien does on his guitar between the rhythm and lead section in his instrument. Closer, How It Happened to Me is hypnotic. This is where both the band come into full circle that makes it capture back into the saddle of the Sabbath sound that makes me want to discover more of their music and see what makes them in your face and showing no stopping.

I have listened so far to Usury about six times now. And while this is an introduction to the band’s music, The Giraffes are for me, are really damn good from start to finish! And Silver Sleeve Records have scored a touchdown with this and I hope to hear more of The Giraffes music and bring the loud, wild, and mind-blowing brainstorming ideas they will come up with next.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Aaron Clift Experiment - Outer Light, Inner Darkness

Now, mind you I’m new to the music of Austin’s own The Aaron Clift Experiment. Their new album in which it’s a follow up to their 2012 debut, Lonely Hills is entitled, Outer Light, Inner Darkness is a spellbinding and jaw-dropping piece of work that composer Aaron Clift has brought into the inner light. They received some recognition, word-of-mouth, even named as one of the best unsigned bands of 2013 from Prog Magazine.

For me, that’s a real support, but let me get back into the review train. Outer Light, Inner Darkness is one of those albums that won’t leave my portable CD player and I really love what is going on here. Aaron Clift is not doing this for himself, he’s doing it along with his bandmates to work together as a team. The band considers alongside keyboardist Aaron Clift himself is; Eric Gutierrez on Guitar/Mandolin, Devin North on Bass/Double Bass, and Joe Resnick on Drums and Percussion.

It’s also a concept album about contemplating dualities between light vs. darkness, hope vs. despair. The first half deals with the conflict that they go through the forces as the second half goes into a journey as they try to reconcile the extreme measures they go through and how they can become one. It’s very much finding out who you are as it’s almost like a spiritual journey to find what lies ahead to fight for your inner self.

The music itself is melodic, hard, and spellbinding. Opening track, Kissed by the Sun stars off with a killer guitar riff followed by the violins and Aaron singing “Remember the day/when the sun kissed our backs?/Remember the way/light would fill the cracks of our life?” It’s a great way to start the album off with amazing lyrical touches to the story in the pattern of a waltz in the ¾ time signature and Eric’s guitar going into a crunching sound with unexpected momentum and Clift’s Rhodes and Keyboards filling in the atmosphere.

Not to mention Devin’s Bass solo in the midsection that resembles Jaco Pastorius and Geddy Lee. Ascending melodies come into mind that sees Clift reaching for the highest mountain tops as the band follow along to reach into climbing beauty. I love Fragments of Sleep. It has a melodic ballad that reminded me of Beardfish doing a continuation of Styx’s The Grand Illusion. It’s dramatic, touching, and dealing with the dreams being in front of you, but jumbling down.

Your Arms Hold Them to the Dark is a dark and sinister composition with a metallic punch. There’s a bit of Haken thrown into the mix as if the song was written during the sessions of their second album, Visions. Layered sounds, spooky keyboard touches, and intense rhythm setting the haunting vibrations with a thunderous attitude that fighting the darkness will be a task to take.

The Last Oasis is classical at its finest from the string section. It gives a symphonic metallic introduction on what is to come that shines brightly with hope for the first three minutes before kicking into a Queen-like melody and touches of The Who’s rock opera Tommy thrown into the mix before Aaron sings as the climatic finale comes into the swing.

The 12-minute suite Moonscape is perhaps one of my favorites. It is the power of the ring of Progressive Rock at its best. The three-part suite are militant, atmospheric, and spacier that will have your jaws dropped. There’s the inspiration of the Italian Prog sounds of La Coscienza Di Zeno’s second album Sensitivita, early Genesis, Pink Floyd, and Bigelf thrown into the mix. It will sends chills on your arm hair to raise up at the right moment.

The Aaron Clift Experiment’s second album has completely taken me by surprise. I have listened to it three times now and I have to say he has come a long way to bring the Prog genre into full circle with the stories thrown in. I have to highly recommend this album big time and there will be some competition on the best Prog albums of 2015. And it will probably be this one.