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Monday, October 23, 2017

Trojan Horse - Fukushima Surfer Boys

Now, it’s been a good while since I’ve done a review for the Bad Elephant Music label. I’ve been very busy listening to a lot of music. When I say a lot, I mean a LOT. Now it’s been three years since Trojan Horse have released some new music after the release of their 2014 album, World Turned Upside Down. I’ve always wanted to find out and discover what the band will think of next.

Not only that, but it was my introduction to the label of Bad Elephant Music when I bought the album on Wayside Music two years ago. This year, Trojan Horse are back in action with the release of their new album entitled, Fukushima Surfer Boys. Now, mind you, when I first heard the name of their new album. It almost sounded very funny. Very much like it was named after one of the Troma films from the 1980s in their heyday of grossed-out films and slasher films.

But with Trojan Horse, they have some humor in them, which works very well. On here, it shows a futuristic post-punk, post-rock, pop, and experimental flavor that gives a door opening to this whole other universe of what is behind that locked door that no one ever, ever goes near.

Not only that, but it’s the who’s who on here. You have Kavus Torabi (Gong, Knifeworld, Guapo) on Guitar, Marillion bassist Pete Trewevas, and Doves’ Jimi Goodwin. And it begins to dawn on me to open that door and see what the Duke brothers have up their sleeve.

The Modern Apothecary is Trojan Horse’s nod to both Knifeworld and the Cardiacs rolled up to a gigantic smoothie. It has a dystopian carousel and amusement park amazement with odd time signatures along with stop-and-go moments with help from Torabi’s guitar getting to set the controls by making the jump to light speed as the midsection goes towards the infinite universes as Goodwin sets the coordinates in the styles of mid-to-late ‘70s era of Hawkwind.

Now when I listened to How You Gonna Get By? It has the beginning of a killer anthem. You have this textures between double drum tracks, ascending melodies turned into a psychedelic approach thanks to a Beatlesque keyboard section as it turns back for the shop to go for another round towards the galaxy reminiscing late ‘70s/early ‘80s of Queen and the Power Pop genre of the 1970s.

For the band, it’s almost as if they wrote this track for the adult-animated 1981 cult classic, Heavy Metal. Then, there’s I Wanna See My Daddy. With a bass-picking introduction, the style has a cross between post-punk, ‘80s pop, and new wave atmosphere. It’s quite interesting for Trojan Horse to delve into that pool for going into an approach that will make you close your eyes and imagine this song being used as the end credits for Satoshi Kon’s 1997 anime masterpiece, Perfect Blue.

It’s part Joy Division, part Beach Boys, and Simple Minds. But the 10-minute composition of The Ebb C/W Solotron is a futuristic adventure of electronic music for them to show more than just their progressive side in their music. It also gives them a chance for them to give some “free rein” and it works quite well by heading towards into a vision of the future. It’s kind of like a video game score for the Nintendo Entertainment System honoring Wendy Carlos near the end section of the piece.

Junk #3 and Junk #1 remains a mysterious composition. With its psychotic guitars going through different hay wiring effects followed by screeching noises and reverb/delay effects with a Vangelis Blade Runner-sque score as the calming vocals go from one plane to another following alarming sections that will make your arm hair go up. But it’s The Shapes that it makes really surreal, strange, and hypnotic.

It sees Trojan Horse going deeper into the genre of Musique-Concrete/droning sound with an Avant-Garde twist between the styles of Pierre Henry, The Faust Tapes, Terry Riley and Steve Reich having BBQ with John Cage for the electronic madness of insanity with some spoken-word dialogue. Trojan Horse’s Fukushima Surfer Boys (what a title!) is a very interesting release.

I’ll admit, this was not an easy album to listen from beginning to end. But they’ve got something up their sleeves and it may not be for the faint of the heart and I’ll keep listening to it more and more. It’s one of those albums that will grow on you and who knows what the Duke brothers will come up with next. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

King Crimson - Official Bootleg: Live in Chicago

In July of 2005, the late great Roger Ebert, film critic of the Chicago Sun Times said while he was given a star dedication in his honor that proclaimed in honor his work as a critic for Roger Ebert Day, said, “We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are. Where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth, is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy.” We’re different, and we have a different certain taste of what we do and it’s quite understandable that the movies are like a machine.

Going to a concert, is like watching the show right in front of your eyes and being in awe of what you saw from start to finish. And it’s hard to understand why King Crimson are still going strong since coming back again in 2013. This time, they’ve released another live album which is a part of the King Crimson Collectors Club. This is an official bootleg release recorded during the summer of this year on June 28th at the Chicago Theatre for the Radical Action tour.

When you listen to this 2-CD set, it’s like going back for another round with the maestro to see what Robert Fripp will think of next. Listening to this recording, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at one of their performances as if they’re ready for another round to give the audience what they want.

From the moment Robert knew that after their stand-out performance last year in Vienna, Chicago is the place to raise the bars higher by releasing the big massive guns for the current eighth-headed beast. Not only that, but they’ve performed some of the pieces in which they’ve never performed before since 1971. Including Cirkus (Including Entry of the Chameleons) and the last 11-minute piece of The Lizard Suite from their third album, Lizard.

It’s not just going to be a prog-rock show, but a concert and movie inside your mind. And I love how on Cirkus, Mel Collins does this little fanfare for the Greatest Show on Earth to begin. The suite is perhaps a standing ovation. It’s like a tidal wave ready for the beast to embark one of the most challenging parts in the epic. And it is nailed down perfectly.

I can imagine the audience being in awe of hearing those two compositions being performed again. Along with the 2-part pieces that is like an eruptive powder keg ready to explode at any minute of Larks Tongues’ in Aspic. The bell effect on Pictures of a City is a little intro followed by a seas crashing and birds chirping in the distance before it goes into a volcanic explosion.

And with a sonic speed through, the drum sections, Tony’s bass, Jakko, and Robert go into the attack mode followed by the stop-and-go moment as Mel’s sax blare into the darkness. Listening on here with them going through the Adrian Belew-era of the ‘80s ‘era of King Crimson (Discipline, Beat, and Three of a Perfect Pair) with Indiscipline that begins on the second disc, the double quartet adds the mysteries and clues that are shattered all over the floor before getting the pieces back up to the crowds cheering.

And then all of a sudden, comes this blaring effect that gives you some ideas to follow the tracks, step-by-step. Jakko sings the lyrics as the guitar melody follow him as Levin’s Chapman Stick and Vocals help him through the case scenarios. The three-beast drums as if they are scoring a chase sequence on Neurotica before Tony and Mel follow pursuit and the blasting of the chords on the first 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

Robert is walking through a dangerous tightrope and never knowing if the rope is going to be cut loose as he goes through some of the challenging moments on the frets before the band ends with an abrupt cliffhanger ending. Radical Action II which appears on the 3-CD set, Radical Action to Unseat the Hold of Monkey Mind, is an interesting instrumental.

You can tell that the brutal beast has been unleashed and showing no sign of giving up for finding its feast and hunger for human flesh. The live version of here, is almost describing about the future is now in sudden hell and Crimson is giving the full details on what’s going on right now and what is about to come in the 22nd century. There’s also a new track that made its world premiere at the Chicago Theatre which is Jakko’s composition, The Errors.

It has an experimental yet futuristic tribal atmosphere and it deals with reflecting through the hallways of mirrors, realizing that while what you have done was wrong, there is a slight chance of hope of fixing them and making sure that will never happen again. The drums do this section between Harrison, Mastelotto, and Stacey do as if it’s (no-pun intended) a perfect pair of three to make it sound like a steel working machine as if they are walking through the mines.

They always want to make sure that the late great David Bowie gets some honor with their take of Heroes. It is always a big stamp of approval for Robert creating the guitar to alter the feedback and almost as if he’s nodding his head up whilst looking towards the heavens to show a nod for the Thin White Duke.

Now Jakko Jakszyk, whether you admire him or not, he is very good at both playing guitar and singing. There’s lines divided in the sand whether to accept him or not, but’s for him to sing these songs, he’s done a good job. For example when you listen to The Letters from their fourth studio album, Islands, he sings very smoothly and not trying to rip Boz’s vocals, but to stay true and honor the music.

Mel’s sax goes through a free-jazz improvisation as it moves from raunchy to an alarming roar that cries out into the night followed by the drumming crescendos and Fripp going from a crystal ball-sque sound to shattering brainstorms. But who couldn’t forget the closer that started everything off 48 years ago of 21st Century Schizoid Man. It closes the second disc by clocking in at 15-minutes, it’s the beast coming together as one by reigning terror.

The eight piece keeps the flames burning more and more by going through some improvisational jazz rock from Mel, Tony, and the three-headed drum Beast by creating ideas in the midsection that made my eyebrows go up. Mastelotto, Harrison, and Stacey go through an incredible drum duel between the three of them as they go through and race as if someone who will can make it to the finish line. You can imagine that you and the audience are in awe and shouting for them to keep going and supporting them more and more.

Live in Chicago as I’ve mentioned before, is you closing your eyes and being at one of their performances and seeing the eight-piece really giving love and support to show that they’re not going anywhere. Staying true honoring the legacies of Greg Lake, Boz Burrell, and John Wetton, it’s a return to know that their spirits and honor will be in their music forever and ever.

The doors are still continuing to punch down for more adventures of King Crimson and seeing where will they come up with next. And so, let’s drink and have a toast for the Court of the Crimson King.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

The Samurai of Prog - On We Sail

Since their formation back around in 2009, the multinational ensemble The Samurai of Prog considers Steve Unruh on vocals, flute, and violin; Kimmo Porsti on drums and percussion, and Marco Bernard on Bass. They have released four albums going back from 2011 to 2016. Their music is an odyssey. With renditions of Pink Floyd, Yes, Marillion, and Genesis to name a few. Appearing on a tribute album to the Floyd’s music, The Stories of H.P. Lovecraft, and the two part compilation albums of Decameron: Ten Days in 100 Novellas: Parts I and II.

This year, they’ve released their fifth album entitled On We Sail on the Seacrest Oy label. Now this is not a concept album, but the material on here, faces the challenges of the odds and scary seas that you as a listener, are about to embark on. The music and storytelling compositions that are on here, will take you through those rough seas to catch the wind and glide at the same time.

On The Samurai of Prog releases, they would bring some guest musicians including Roine Stolt (Kaipa, The Flower Kings, Transatlantic), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings), Guy LeBlanc (Camel, Nathan Mahl), David Myers (The Musical Box), Linus Kase (Anglagard), and Robert Webb (England). Here with On We Sail, new guests include; Jacob Holm-Lupo (White Willow, Alco Frisbass), Sean Timms (Unitopia, Southern Empire), Kerry Shacklett (Presto Ballet), Michelle Young, Brett Kull (Echolyn), Oliviero Lacagnina (Latte E Miele), and Roberto Vitelli (Ellesmere, Taproban).

This is both orchestral, symphonic, and folk influences that are on here. Not to mention the amazing artwork done by Ed Unitsky. You could tell it is a nod to the stories including Homer’s The Odyssey, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Jules Verne’s classics 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Centre of the Earth that are all combined into one.

Now there are nine tracks including two clocking in at 9 minutes and one at 10 minutes. Listening to On We Sail, is like for me going back in the summer of 2001 as I was about to enter my Sophomore year in High School listening to the Peter Gabriel-era of Genesis, Bill Bruford-era of Yes, and the golden Pink Floyd albums on a loop at times. But listening to On We Sail, isn’t just a prog album, but an adventure that is worth exploring.

Now I first became aware of The Samurai of Prog back in the summer of 2014 after I had graduated from Houston Community College when I bought The Imperial Hotel on the Kinesis website. When I was listening to this album, I wasn’t just in awe, but I knew that the genre cannot die. It’s a glowing flower that will die out. And it shows that you can imagine either a movie or an animated epic story set as a rock opera done in the styles of Don Bluth’s animation.

I love the nod between Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick and Acqua Fragile’s sole self-titled debut that is on the track, Growing Up. It has this reflection of going back in time to remember how amazing your childhood was by reading both Mother Goose’s stories and Dr. Seuss. Followed by the golden age of Television that had a few channels in both black and white and color at times.

The midsection for a brief few minutes is quite Italian Prog Rock and then back to Unruh’s violin as Brett Kull’s incredible lines on his guitar as the time signature gets into the ballad of 3/4 time. But Kerry Shacklett and Steve Unruh share the vocals and I could tell they blended very well together before fading away into the sunset.

Oliviero Lacagnina’s The Perfect Black is his nod to the spirit of Latte E Miele. Not only that but both Le Orme and Banco Del Mutuo Sorcosso. There’s this epic and some of the action moments of the waves and heading towards danger that is right upon you through those thunderstorms. The moog itself has these spooky sequences while classical guitars brings those calming moments of the waves crashing upon the ship.

It’s alarming, but well-written of bringing the spirit of Italian Progressive Rock back on their feet and you can tell perhaps that Poseidon is almost ready for another attack on the ship and it isn’t going to be pleasant. Meanwhile, Thedora which is sung by Michelle Young, it’s very much of a short story that she sings in her calming arrangement.

I love how it starts off with a metallic introduction thanks to Ruben Alvarez as Steve goes wah-wah mode on his violin followed by the Mellotron’s thanks to Luca Scherani’s keyboards. The opening title-track is making you get ready to set sail on a brand new journey.

It has this overture-sque vibe between the organ, church organ, and violin. Steve describes in his narration as they set the courses for bringing families aboard the boat as giving the listener the voyage that is waiting beyond the horizon. Guitars and Moog share a melody and delving layers before being transformed into the styles of Triumvirat thanks to Shacklett’s nod to the Prog trio. It’s a wonderful introduction and opener to get things going.

Ghost Written begin this nod between the Mellotron and Guitar to open up the rusty gates and see what lies ahead beyond those bars. Sean Timms’ arranging on here, is gorgeous and setting the bars and melodies that he wants Unruh, Mark Trueack, and Jacob Holm-Lupo to go into. Timms nails it down.

He’s like a conductor giving directions where he wants to The Samurai of Prog to go. The lyrics near the end have a Yes-like atmosphere as if it’s reminiscing Close to the Edge’s And You and I. It’s very well-structured and well-organized as Alvarez’s lead guitar solo fly off into the skies before Timms’ Piano concerto channels Gershwin and Keith Emerson and Unruh’s Celtic folk on the violin.

The closing 10-minute piece, Tigers recalls the styles of Rick Wakeman’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and Genesis’ Wind & Wuthering-era. The song deals now coming back home and celebrating through the hardship that went on through the journey that you as a listener embarked on. And knowing the stories that they will tell their children of what they’ve embarked on.

Brett Kull knocks it out of the ballpark on his guitar as Daniel Faldt who sings in the vocals, is giving us a farewell by thanking us to being a part of this amazing adventure. No matter what went on, it was a ride they will never, ever forget.

The textures and story-line backgrounds as I’ve mentioned earlier in my review are the adventures to embark more and more to come towards. I’ll admit, I’m not that crazy about The Samurai of Prog, but On We Sail, is a journey that is on the edge of a lifetime that will be with you forever and ever.

The Knells - Knells II

The origins of the story of The Knells goes back in May seven years ago when composer and guitarist Andrew McKenna Lee went on an eight hour hiking expedition at the Joshua Tree National Park. According to Sid Smith's review in PROG Magazine back in 2014, Lee took some inspirations on his iPod by listening to three albums; U2’s The Unforgettable Fire, Talking Heads’ Remain in Light, and Emmylou Harris’ Wrecking Ball. This was where Andrew was about to take these ideas and his next approach of a musical project which would become you guess it….The Knells.

Four years ago, they’ve released their sole self-titled debut album and that was where I discovered their music thanks to Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room and it was number one on his top 20 albums in PROG Magazine. And that was where I needed to check this band out. Now, whenever I would listen to his podcasts, I know something that might perk my ears right up by discovering not just the big names, but showing support to the little guy and peaking my interest.

Four years later, The Knells are back with a follow up with a second album entitled, Knells II. It shows not just the progressive influences, but chamber pop, psychedelic, and operatic vocalizations. And five enduring highlights that you might want to take note and show much Andrew McKenna Lee has come a long way. With Bargaining, Andrew’s guitar takes you through these structures and going up into its fantasy side as if it’s opening up a structure of an illustrated glacier.

You can tell it’s his nod to Rush’s opening atmospheric track Xanadu from their fifth studio album, A Farewell to Kings as Andrew channels the styles of Alex Lifeson’s guitar in this 2-minute instrumental. You can also close your eyes on Poltergeist. Imagine yourself being in the Steampunk-era as it begins in the early part of the 20th century. Heavier riffs, steel working pulse rhythms as you dig deeper, deeper, and deeper into the center of the heart of the Earth’s core.

The song, Could You Would You deals with the difficult decisions and finding courage as the vocals of Nina Berman, Charlotte Mundy, and Blythe Gaissert blend very well together as a team on their arrangements. It brings to mind the essence of the Northettes which were Canterbury-sque between Barbara Gaskin (Spirogyra), Ann Rosenthal (Hatfield and the North), and Amanda Parsons (National Health).

I also love how there’s this click-clacking sounds between the percussions and the drum patterns between Jude Traxler and Jeff Gertz creating this Italian Western vibe of the late ‘60s with Sub Rosa. There’s this galloping rhythmic vibe as if Clint Eastwood’s character, The Man with No Name is coming back after retirement and do one last showdown before final dying breath.

Pat’s sliding guitar and Andrew himself channel the intense scenario on what will Clint’s character will think of next before his heart gives out to him. Not only that, but it’s a nod to the Spaghetti Western scores of that era honoring the maestro, Ennio Morricone. And then we come to the opener, First Song. With the introductive track, there’s this backward guitar improvisation through a reverse tape before the volume increases as The Knells show a little nod to Moulettes’ music, but with a psychedelic adventure for a brief second towards the void.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in my review. The Knells have come a long, long way. It’s now my third and fifth listen to their second album and it is back for another journey with Andrew McKenna Lee’s project once more. Knells II is not just an impressive release this year, it’s all here with; Chamber Pop, Minimalism, Progressive, and Psychedelic approaches.

It is stirring, raw, and powerful. And that in my opinion, will keep the Knells’ spark growing inside of your pocket for many years to come and knowing what Andrew will think of next as it grows brighter and brighter to see what brainstorming ideas he will have next.

Crown Larks - Population

It’s been two years since I’ve heard from perhaps one of the most mind-blowing bands to come out of Chicago which is Crown Larks. Now back in 2015, I was on the edge of my seat when I listened to their debut album entitled, Blood Dancer and reviewed it here on my blog site, Music from the Other Side of the Room. It was this cross between Free-Jazz, Psychedelic music, Avant-Rock, Pop, Shoegaze, and Krautrock influences and taking those genres into a whole new level.

This year, they’ve released their second album which is a follow up to their debut album entitled, Population. Crown Larks are back for seconds and on their second release, they’ve up the ante even more. Jack Bouboushian’s guitar has this surreal and haywiring effect while vocals brings to mind of CAN’s Damo Suzuki. Echoing delay/reverb effects set up some of the most insane moments on here that brings to mind both The Velvet Underground and CAN’s first four albums in their early years and Ash Ra Tempel’s Manuel Gottsching.

Lorraine Bailey’s keyboard work at times sets up the psych/spacey approach of the styles between Jazz, Garage Rock, and Post-Rock voyages. Her flute playing reminisce between Mel Collins of King Crimson and Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues as if they were taking a dark and hidden force that would have made both of these bands work well together and making an album that beyond the singles and into something sinister.

You have some of these intensive melodies that is like looking through a glowing crystal ball that is about to burst at any second to find out what is going to happen next. Whether you’ll be sucked into another parallel universe or bright lights blinding you for six highlights that is on Paranomal that will make you as a listener, be a part of another journey with Crown Larks.

Swoon (For Hampton) has this Rhodes-sque keyboard delving into some heavy waters recalling Manfred Mann’s Chapter Three’s sole self-titled debut album as Bill Miller’s intensive drum sets the alarm clock ready to go off at any minute while Peter Gillette’s trumpet blares like a howling beast reminiscing of Miles Davis’ late ‘60s/early ‘70s sounds of his beginnings in the Jazz Rock territory. Meanwhile, Curt Owen’s baritone sax goes into various sections of the room.

He goes from one place to another as you can imagine it was something straight out of the sessions between Miles Davis’ In a Silent Way and CAN’s Ege Bamyasi while Burn It Down feels almost as if it was something straight out of the 2-LP Nuggets compilation. Part-Garage, Part-Spacey, Part-Psych, and Part-Jazz into a blender while Goodbye has this organ beginning with an ominous atmosphere.

You can imagine if Crown Larks are doing scores for three films; Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, David Lynch’s Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, and Eiichi Yamamoto’s 1973 surreal anime masterpiece, Belladonna of Sadness. Jack and Lorraine set up vocalizations between them for a mournful ceremony followed by feedback of guitars and then delving into delay/reverb effects to set up this deserted landscape.

You can imagine setting the scenery being in the hottest part of the day with small amounts of food and water with you as Jack hit these chords followed by Bill and Matt’s Bass following him before finding shelter in the coolest yet cold area to get away from the hot sun. Then there’s the ascending heavenly nightmarish opener, Howls.

Lorraine’s flute sets up the controls to embark the listener to be a part of Crown Larks’ journey back into Space. She comes up with these brilliant improvisations and vocal work as Jack goes into his nod to Michael Karoli and screaming Suzuki effects before the hay wiring free-jazz section then back into the outer limits.

With a catchy and vibrant introduction by Matt Puhr’s bass while Bill sets up the scenario on his drums, React sees Jack and Lorraine walking into this dangerous passageway of a bizarre forest while he goes through the screaming intensive moments twice before the band charge up the jump to hyper speed to hurtle through the cosmos again.

In a Hawkwind-sque style in the mid-section of their late ‘70s period, it’s almost as if they teamed up with Ash Ra Tempel to go beyond the solar systems with some killer electric keyboard improve that Lorraine does. Then, we come to closing number, Stranger (Unce Down to the New Store). Crown Larks takes you back hurling back down to Earth on the closing track.

You have these alarming synths that reminisces of Pink Floyd’s VCS3 loop from On The Run knowing it will be the perfect time to land at the exact moment at the right time. Lorraine takes the stage on her vocals and it hits one by one to be in the first line very early in the morning at this new location, to get new groceries and clothes that you badly need.

Mind-boggling, weird, and hypnotic, Population is Crown Larks showing that they are not  showing no sign of stopping. And the electrical voltages that they brought with them, is brighter and in your face. They are going to keep it growing more and more and you may never know what will the band think of next for their next adventure for many years to come.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Stick Men - Roppongi

This 2-CD set sees Stick Men back at the land of the rising sun again which they were on tour this year at the time promoting their new album, Prog Noir. This is the second time they brought along a member of King Crimson. They did that with violinist David Cross on the Midori album, this year they brought Saxophonist and flautist, Mel Collins to the forefront for those performances. These were two complete shows they did recorded live on February 21, 2017 in Tokyo at the Billboard.

It’s almost as if you are going back for another round with Stick Men. Since I have a love of King Crimson’s music, Stick Men are now one of favorite bands since last year after discovering them on Sid Smith’s Podcasts from the Yellow Room. Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, and Pat Mastelotto are like a band of brothers working together as a team.

There are so many moments on Roppongi I wish I could describe on third or fourth listen, but it’s a trip to listen more of the incredible band who not only are bringing the sounds of Crimson and Robert Fripp as he described it as a Way of Doing things, but bringing in new material also. In an interview that is published right now by Anil Prasad of Innerviews: Music Without Borders, Pat mentioned they want to move forward and write their own material.

There’s a huge amount of miles for Stick Men he said that wants to be together both on and offstage and show how much has depend in their relationship between all three of them. I think in my opinion, it would be very interesting to see something like that and not just play the music of Crimson, but bringing in some new material to see if they appreciate it or not.

But when you listen to these amazing live performances in Tokyo, you can feel the vibrations of not just Crimson’s music, but their own sound, their own music, and the future. And imagine yourself being in the audience just in awe of these amazing men carrying the grocery bags they bring to the Mighty Thor hammer with them. There are of course the classics including Larks’ Tongues in Aspic Part II and the snarling intensive journey into the tidal waves whilst going into the outer limits on Sailor’s Tale.

But Mel Collins on the title track, his flute and sax brings you into a journey of relaxation into the rivers and forests that show a light of hope. He gives the audience a hypnotic texture to show where he and Stick Men are about to take them into. On the second show of the second CD, Prog Noir is a dangerous live version.

This is a much better version that’s better than the studio version. And as I’ve mentioned in my review of the album last year, Stick Men carry the nod of David Bowie’s Outside-era. Now I’ll admit this, Tony Levin is not a great singer, but he does a good job describing the spiritual aspects as Mel comes back into the center stage with Shiro.

He takes his sax by bringing some echoing reverb effects and walking on a dangerous tightrope for an electronic nightmare with bits of a sonic voyage. It’s jazzy, avant-garde, and up to know when the brick walls collapse to increase the heat gage and explode at any second. Level 5 where I almost heard the squeaky mice effect and dooming brutal forces by making sure that the battle is ready to begin. It has the nightmare scenarios, goosebumps, and hitting you right in the stomach as Markus raises the temperature up to 800 degrees. Stick Men never, ever does me wrong. 

And with Roppongi which translates to Six Trees, it shows the band even more since Midori.

While it shows another second round of performances of the two shows they did in Japan in February of this year, they bring the sinister, ominous, terrifying, and hidden sounds that creep up behind you. So get ready to embark on another adventure with Stick Men’s music for the mind-blowing sounds of Roppongi.

Wingfield Reuter Sirkis - Lighthouse

I don’t see too much between The Stone House and Lighthouse which is released on the MoonJune label this year. I always consider them in my opinion to be both Volume One (The Stone House) and Volume Two (Lighthouse), but that’s just me. The album was recorded last year also in February at La Casa Murada Studios which is the same place The Stone House was recorded. Listening to Lighthouse, is like a flaming fire that grows rapidly intense ready to erupt at any second.

This one is different. Bassist Yaron Stavi is not on here, but it’s a trio. Which considers Mark Wingfield, Markus Reuter, and Asaf Sirkis. This isn’t just a Jazz album, but more of a futuristic approach of the Progressive Rock genre with a Post-Rock vibe of the 22nd century set in a Blade Runner-sque dystopian wasteland. For me, this is another fresh intensive release I’ve listened to.

The moment when I put my headphones on, I knew I was about to embark on something quite mysterious and hypnotic right from the notes that Wingfield and Reuter do. I got to give MoonJune Records a huge amount of credit for making me discover these amazing musicians. Mark working with Yaron on Proof of Light, and him working with Kevin Kastning while Markus with Stick Men and Sonar, Lighthouse is album that will make you look at a crystal ball to see what the 22nd century will look like.

When you listen to the 14-minute epic Ghost Light, you can imagine the ambient/atmosphere approaches of a deserted hotel that is in complete rubble. Markus’ touch guitar creates these chilling moments of someone lurking behind the hotel that were once beautiful turned into ashes. You can hear echoes of Klaus Schulze’s Irrlicht and King Crimson’s THRAK coming to mind.

Wingfield creates some of the most exotic landscapes on his guitar which have a Floydian tribe nearing the end of a shuttle ready to head back to Rick Deckard’s apartment. Now Asaf Sirkis’ drumming like a running man going across the landscape creating these intense grooves of a striking powder keg waiting to explode at any second with Magnetic.

He can go through those doors one-by-one with his drum kit as they open frantically to allow him to go in by welcoming him with open arms and go beyond the kit. The opener, Zinc begins by going into a travel towards the Sahara desert as the music goes into a middle-eastern King Crimson Red-era vibe thanks to both Wingfield and Reuter’s dooming notes and leading towards the dangerous tombs and seeing what lies ahead.

But I love how Wingfield creates a discovery on his guitar to letting the listener know that while all hope is lost, there is a chance of surviving. He’s making the instrument fight back tears on A Hand in the Dark. Mark is very good at this. He creates this scenery which is mysterious and spooky at the same time and the issue of a struggle to be free is a challenge.

Then, there is this chaotic tension in the last 3-minutes of the composition as he and Asaf blend in to getting out of the deep dark caves in the river and hoping to be back on the surface and for the first time seeing a full bright sun to come. This has been my second time listening to Lighthouse.

And I have to say I was very impressed from the pieces that the trio did. Wingfield, Reuter, and Sirkis brought some amazing and incredible yet haunting melodies and improvisations that is on here. It’s intense, in your face, chilling, and a dangerous adventure that shows that this experience can be worth exploring, but with a gigantic challenge to be prepared for. And it's not going to be easy.

Gilad Atzmon And The Orient House Ensemble - The Spirit of Trane

It’s been 50 years since we lost one of the influential and inspiration icons of the history of Jazz. And it would have been his 91st birthday if he were still here creating more musical landscapes and pushing the envelope for the amazing late great, John Coltrane. He once described music as the spiritual expression of who he was. Faith, knowledge, and being. Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble want to bring the tribute of Trane’s music by carrying his flaming torch and making it grow and making sure it doesn’t burn out.

Released on the Fanfare Jazz label, The Spirit of Trane was recorded in two days at Eastcote Studios in London of December last year. You can feel Trane’s presence between the Orient House Ensemble. To fill in for Chris Higginbottom, Italian drummer Enzo Zirilli who appeared on the Talinka album, worked with Antonio Forcione, Sarah Gillepsie, and Vittorio De Scalzi of Italian Progressive Rock group, New Trolls, comes into the forefront.

Listening to this album as I’ve mentioned before, Coltrane’s spirit fills the studio and on the album to fill in the pieces of the puzzle that match well into his work. And the six centerpieces on here, you might be prepare to bring some Kleenex with you on them. On the opener, In a Sentimental Mood, Frank Harrison’s opening classical piano brings to mind a lullaby introduction before Atzmon sends a smoothing relaxing atmosphere on his Tenor Sax to give the Sun a chance to rise up for a new morning.

The Sigamos String Quartet help out by reminiscing the new dawn and new day by nodding to the late great Henry Mancini with a late ‘50s/early ‘60s sound on the string section. Yaron’s double bass is walking on a fresh warm salt watery beach to get a glimpse of the first sign of a rainbow. And near the end, the sax is going over the area as the band delve into A Love Supreme nod.

With Minor Thing, the ensemble does a wonderful crescendo nod to the 1965 classic introduction of Acknowledgement (Part 1). It almost sounds very close to a continuation as if Atzmon wants the opening track to be moving forward to find the inner self by knowing who you really are. There at times he brings to mind the essence of not just Coltrane’s work, but the late great Elton Dean of the Soft Machine when he hits those high notes on his sax.

The string quartet come back for another beautiful lushful morning introduction of Soul Eyes. You can close your eyes and imagine being in a black-and-white film in the streets of Paris, France set in the late ‘50s/early ‘60s as if they were directed by both Louis Malle and Jean-Luc Godard. This piece of music has this setting of a scenario like something straight out of a documentary-sque feel of Paris in the night time.

I got this nod in which the Orient House Ensemble are not only paying a nod to the master but the essence of the music of Wes Montgomery also. Meanwhile, the band take you into an amazing 5-minute ride as they take on Trane’s finest work, Blue Train. Atzmon and Stavi follow each other as Gilad blares out incredible improvisations with some intense solos and making sure it would get John’s gigantic stamp of approval.

Frank’s Piano and Enzo’s drumming do this incredible duel while Frank really goes into the tunnels and seeing where his hands take him. Enzo’s drumming is not just staggering, but he around the area by a complete circle showing his influential touches between Philly Joe Jones and Elvin Jones.

Naima is a romantic ballad which appeared in Coltrane’s fifth studio album released in 1959 entitled, Giant Steps is named after his ex-wife Juanita Naima Grubbs. The string quartet and Gilad create this rich and exuberant beauty and making your heart tug at the exact moment to end of saying how much love of this person you want to be with for the rest of your life.

Then there is of course, Giant Steps. Here, this is a mid-slow walking take of the composition. Yaron Stavi does this ballad walking line on his double bass. He comes into the front of the stage to get a chance in the light and he goes into the styles of Paul Chambers and Charles Mingus and believe me, Yaron knocks it out every time whether he plays both electric and double-bass, he goes throughout those sections and knowing where his fingers on the string will hit next.

Say It (Over and Over Again) closes the album to give the listener a fond farewell as they head to the next bus stop to see where it will head next. Frank gives the nod to let everyone know it's to pack it in and head onboard the next station and see where The Orient House Ensemble will lead into next. Before Gilad's sax cries off into the night, the Bus drives into a new beginning also as the sun sets off into the west as Atzmon brings a wonderful romantic improvisation to close the curtains.

I’ve been an admirer of Coltrane’s music since re-discovering his work when I was in College twelve years ago, and with The Spirit of Trane, it’s one of the most emotional, beautiful, and touching tributes to the master that Gilad and the Orient House ensemble brings here. As he once said again about music, “I think music is an instrument. It can create the initial thought patterns that can change the thinking of people.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Pete Levin - Möbius

Pete Levin has been around performing and recording music along as a sought-after musician by recording both in the Jazz and Pop world from Paul Simon, The Brubeck Brothers, Jaco Pastorius, Charles Mingus, Annie Lennox, Judy Collins, and the late great Miles Davis. This year, he’s released his ninth studio album entitled, Möbius. The album was recorded live in the studio for two days as Pete captures the spirit and essence of Gil Evans.

Now I first became aware of Pete Levin after he and his younger brother Tony did the Levin Brothers album which was released three years ago on the Lazy Bones Recordings label and I was completely blown away how much the two brothers work well together not just as band members, but as a family by working one-on-one. Now with Möbius, Pete wrote eight original compositions and there are two covers which include one by Thelonious Monk and Tony Williams.

Not only Pete and Tony Levin are on the album, but it’s almost the who’s who that are on the album. You have guitarists Jeff Ciampa an Kal David (John Mayall), drummers Lenny White (Chick Corea) and Jerry Marotta (Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, and Security Project), Erik Lawrence on Baritone Sax, Alex Foster on Tenor & Sorpano Sax, and Chris Pasin on Trumpet to name a few.

What Pete does on here, is to take his keyboards into unbelievable territories. Levin’s music is like walking on a different triangular section of the Rubik’s cube and it’s almost a trip to see where he, Tony and his band members go into those various sections of the doors that are ready to be opened with six highlights on here that are enduring and mind-blowing.

The opener, Promises begins with the Electric Piano going into a stereophonic mode going left and right then getting into the styles of Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters-era meets Steely Dan’s Aja-era. The horn and sax section go into a workout mode plus some funk-rock rhythm guitars while Tony Levin channels a different perspective of the riff on Chameleon.

Pete then goes into the Rhodes city laying down some improvisational sun rising textures that makes it an excellent piece to start things off. Before the take of Monk’s I Mean You, Pete wishes Thelonious a happy 100th birthday and gives him his regard and saying “Hi!” to Gil for him. There is this walking dance mid-beat tempo between the Clavinet and the Electric Keyboard before the Horns and Guitar do a melody that rises up and down.

Tony then walks fast as the sax’s do a solo improvisation to give Monk the appreciation he deserves. When you listen to I’m Falling, at first you think it sounds like a film score that this almost a nod to the golden-era of the 1970s Blaxploitation films as you can imagine Richard “Shaft” Roundtree walking into the next building and following the crime scene for the next batch of clues which he would consider his last case before retiring.

But then, the mood changes into a lukewarm evening for the sax going into a pin-drop momentum as Pasin’s trumpet sets the blare by giving a Miles-sque surrounding in the nighttime sky before dawn approaches. Then, the 10-minute title track starts with the synth notes going up and down the stairs.

Tony brings his upright bass and gives Pete a helping hand. The Rhodes, Sax, and Trumpet along with the guitars going into some essence of Allan Holdsworth and Richard Pinhas’ exercise. Instruments do a thunderous roar as they take part in the melody before Percussionist Nanny Assis creates this intense/dramatic duel between him and the drummers.

While Pete and the band members rise up, up, and up before the guitar does a little bit of feedback, Tony comes into play through the strings and go around, under, and in. The last few seconds come to a dooming end from the synth and it hits a “BLLAARP!” note. Their tribute to Tony Williams with his cover of There Comes a Time, Pete goes back into the driver’s seat of the electric piano and works out more of his magical moments to give a nod up to Tony Williams up in heaven.

I imagine there’s more walking alleyways that Pete gives the band heading into those halls for another adventure with a bluesy twist. But it’s the guitar and Tony’s bass sharing the same alleyway near the last two minutes on the melody share structure as it ends with him and Pete closing shop. But it’s Way Down Yonder where Pete brings everybody into a circle.

Everyone gets ready to drive down into the highway one last time to drive off into the sunset as they are back in 1972 of Herbie Hancock's golden-era, but with an interesting twist of the harmonica and jaw harp style done by Rob Paparozzi. Pete heads into the Organ and plays some Blues/Soul style on the instrument as if the recording was done inside a church and laying down the gospel.

Pasin meanwhile goes into a plunger trumpet mode and bringing to mind of the late ‘30s style of swing at the end. Not only it’s a closing number, but it shows that Pete and his teammates are having a whole lot of fun. While as I’ve mentioned this album was recorded in only two days, Möbius is not only Pete Levin’s finest, but he brings the entire house down.

It is a well solid release that made my ears go up of how much accomplishment this is on as they jammed, relaxed, and creating wonders to see what Pete Levin will think of next.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Talinka - Talinka

Supported by Robert Wyatt, Talinka is one of those releases that will make you tug your heart of beautiful, soft, and gentle releases that is very deep, distinct, and efficient that MoonJune Records have released. Back in August of 2015 in my review of Gilad Atzmon and the Orient House Ensemble’s The Whistle Blower, I once described Tali Atzmon’s vocals was a nod to Combustible Edison’s Miss Lily Banquette on the closing title-track which showed their sense of humor. Listening to Talinka, it’s different.

You can feel Tali’s presence on Talinka’s sole self-titled release as if she’s singing right behind you as if you are walking through a ghost town as the pin dropped at the exact moment. Her vocals reminisce of the late great Peggy Lee. The album is this combination between Jazz, Folk, Tango, and the Great American Songbook. There are moments that the music is haunting and ominous at times with a chilling atmosphere at times.

With the album cover in which Tali did the image for, it’s very much a nod to Black Sabbath’s sole self-titled debut release in 1970, alongside Tali’s vocals, it considers Jenny Bliss Bennett on Viola de Gamba, Violin, Flute, and Vocals; Frank Harris on Piano; Enzo Zirilli on Percussion; Yaron Stavi on Double Bass; and Gilad Atzmon on Bass Clarinet, Soprano Sax, and Accordion. He also produced the album as well.

The album was recorded last year at The Fish Factory Studio in London in November last year and mixed there also in December of that year. You can close your eyes and imagine it’s either 1939 or 1942 in the smoky nightclubs and it’s something straight out of the movies between Casablanca or Warren Beatty’s Dick Tracy, Tali is hypnotizing the audience of her singing and it fascinates the crowd and giving her a big stamp of approval.

Not to mention the six highlights on here that just made listeners open the doors more and more opened than ever before. Invitation begins with this haunting introduction by Gilad’s bass clarinet followed by Stavi’s Brazilian bossa-nova bass line along with Jenny’s violin and Enzo’s brushes on the percussion. The accordion makes you walk along the sandy beaches in the Northwestern part of Brazil in a place called Bahia as the team follow Tali right behind her.

Losing Vision is a response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis that happened last year. Gilad’s bass clarinet and Jenny’s Viola de Gamba create this mourning loss as you can hear the cries and whispers and knowing the struggle of a cry for a change, is going to be a gigantic long and winding road. Gilad and Jenny make you walk into an empty street from an aftermath that just happened that was once peaceful, turned into rubble.

The chilling short instrumental Heimat is an eerie composition with crying vocalization and into the deep waters of classical-avant-garde jazz while the menacing tango vibrations of the Jazz standard, You Don’t Know What Love Is gives my arm-hairs go up at the right momentum as if they strike you like thunder crashing down towards the small little town with powerful notes.

When You Are Gone is a nod to Bali H’ai. It’s a sad and beautiful song that Tali does. You can close your eyes and imagine walking through a sad-and-lonely club of people who lost their loved ones through tragedy and sympathizing with what they had to go through and the struggle to move on, is hard and slow baby steps. The accordion, violin, and double bass set the scenario of what is happening.

The characterization of this person is coming to an end after what has happened to them. The music on here, I got this feeling that is this nod to perhaps one of the most amazing bands to come out of the Rock In Opposition movement thanks to Jenny’s improvisation on her violin, is a band called Univers Zero. And then there’s Baroque Bottom.

You have this soaring soprano sax and the flute delving into the bright clouds and hope there is a new day. The vocalizations set this characterization of a person at being at the lowest low, knowing as I’ve mentioned a second ago, there’s a new beginning and a new chapter for them.

Talinka’s self-titled release is a return to real good music and real Jazz music. For me, listening to this album, is like a breath of fresh air and knowing that there is some good music who want to keep the flaming fires of the genre of the sound of Jazz, Classical, Folk, and Tango alive and well. Talinka has done that. And I hope they will continue to do more in the years to come.

Joe Deninzon & Stratospheerius - Guilty of Innocence

I’m new to the bandwagon when it comes to new bands and artists. And one of them has suddenly landed on my lap which is Joe Deninzon and Stratospheerius. They are a New York based band that formed 16 years ago and they have released their fifth studio album released on the Melodic Revolution Records label this year entitled, Guilty of Innocence. This is one of their frenzied and exaggerated releases I’ve listened from top to bottom and they’ve hit the erupt button in a big gigantic bang.

They’ve opened for artists such as Jethro Tull’s Martin Barre, Alex Skolnick of Testament, and Mickey Hart to name a few. While Joe’s vocal arrangements are brilliant, alongside his electric violin comparing to Curved Air’s Darryl Way, Mahavishnu Orchestra’s Jerry Goodman, and Frank Zappa alumni Jean-Luc Ponty, they take inspirations between Zappa, King Crimson, Yes, and Muse. Stratospheerius won the John Lennon International Songwriting Competition, The Musician’s Atlas, and the Independent Music Award.

Testament's Alex Skolnick, Renaissance’s Rave Tesar, and The Fringe’s Randy McStine appear on the album to lend Joe and the band, a helping hand to show support and knowing they’ve got their backs. Alongside Joe Deninzon, it considers; Aurelien Budynek on Guitar and Backing Vocals, Jamie Bishop on Bass and Backing Vocals, and Lucianna Padmore on Drums.

The five highlights on here are enduring and make you imagine as I’ve always say, “A movie inside your head.” Face has this essence of Gentle Giant’s Acquiring the Taste and Octopus-era on the introduction as the crashing waves hitting the sailing ships as Joe is almost the captain fighting the waves and thunderstorms hitting the boat as his bandmates make sure the ship is steady and try to make towards the surface and not plummet 5,000 fathoms below their sinking doom.

Their take of Muse’s Hysteria from their third studio album in 2003, Absolution is spot on. I love how they do this Spaghetti-Western nod to Ennio Morricone’s Man with No Name trilogy before it goes into interstellar. Jamie’s bass sets forward the space ship into the cosmos as Deninzon’s vocals honors Matt Bellamy with a nod to Frank Zappa thrown into the time signature mixes.

The spaghetti western comes back into the blender of adding the tension thanks to Lucianna’s drumming between Joe and Aurelien getting ready to draw their instruments as weapons in the hottest part of the afternoon of wah-wah violins and guitars for dueling riff at the O.K. Corral on a Game of Chicken while they head to the mothership with a funky groove of a reminiscing intro of David Bowie’s Stay with the Affluenza.

The lyrics deal with the issue on being betrayed and the real person who is doing the hurting is almost as if they are looking in the mirror to find out what kind of worst enemy or the monster they have finally become and knowing that their time is nearly up. Then, we come to the finale of the 12-minute epic, Soul Food.

It makes this jump to light-speed as the first six minutes of epic is part Supertramp’s Crime of the Century-era to Rush’s golden-era from 1975 to 1977. Alex takes center stage to lend Stratospheerius a helping hand as he takes the ship home back to Earth. Then the last five minutes becomes this classical, folky aftermath of coming home. It transforms into this piano concerto that Rave Tesar does that essence of Tony Banks at times.

It suddenly transforms into a rising melody with a nod to Queen II. The vocalizations near end is not only fantastic, but it’s almost as if they are cheering and supporting by throwing confetti for the heroes return for a job well done and then everything screeches at the last 30 seconds for this twist of thunderstorm and wind fade out.

Again, I’m new to Stratospheerius and Joe Deninzon’s music, but Guilty of Innocence is right in my alley. I have to say I was very impressed the moment I put the CD on my old portable CD player. It was like a breath of fresh air all over again and going back and finding out some of the bands and artists to watch out for rather than watch some fail on American Idol. Guilty of Innocence is not only great, but one of the most hectic and heart-stopping albums I’ve listened to.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Gentle Giant - Three Piece Suite

By now, you’re probably know for my love of Gentle Giant since 2002. With Steven Wilson handling the new mixes and 5.1 mix he’s done with The Power and the Glory back in 2014, Octopus in 2015, and now this year the release of the Three Piece Suite, it’s going to be quite a very interesting experience to discover these 10 tracks that cover the first three albums when Phil Shulman was in the band before departing to start a family after the release of their fourth album, Octopus.

The first three albums (Gentle Giant, Acquiring the Taste, and Three Friends) were originally released on the Vertigo label from 1970 to 1972 and the band formed out of the ashes of Simon Dupree and the Big Sound. The band wanted to move away from their pop/psychedelic sound into something that was complex, multi-part vocal arrangements, heavier, classical, and different time signatures.

The ten tracks came from the limited availability of the surviving multi-track tapes that Steven worked on by using Logic as the software and Universal Audio plug-ins while cleaning up the sound of bringing some clarity and information from the instrumental pieces that are on here. I’ve mentioned this many times, Steven is not trying to re-write history, but to honor and stay true to the original mixes as much as he can while bringing a different perspective on them.

Not everyone is going to like what he does on the classic albums on the 5.1 mixes, but it gives a sight on what was buried in those multi-tracks. You have the opening track Giant which begin with the lyrics “The birth of a realization/the rise of a high expectation.” It gives Derek’s vocals coming in front as he sings after the rising organ sound from Kerry Minnear, rumbling bass by Ray, and the booming drums done by Martin Smith.

The piece has this nod to Frank Zappa as if he was watching them just being in awe of what they’re accomplishing by doing a stop-and-go moments from the beginning and in the end section where it comes to an abrupt halt. The mysterious melody tones between, guitar, bass, and piano on The House, The Street, The Room is very clear in the remix as the song deals with scoring drugs while the nod to the story of The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel on Pantagruel’s Nativity, Minnear’s vocals shine followed by the Mellotron and the vocalizations between Derek’s haunting momentum and Gary’s riffs send a chill down my spine along with the xylophone and tambourine which is very clear, is mesmerizing.

Schooldays which almost as if it was recorded during the One Size Fits All-era, paints a retrospective looking back at the time the band remember their days as young man in school as both Phil Shulman and Kerry Minnear’s reverb vocals go back and forth followed by Calvin Shulman’s cameo vocals in the second half of the story. Gary Green for me, he’s been overlooked in the history of the Progressive Rock movement during its golden-era. He never gets the recognition he deserves.

When you listen to the 12-bar blues shuffle at the end section of Why Not? He mixing both Jazz, Classical, and the Blues rolled into one. From its rocking riffs with a Blackmore-sque style to the climatic end to delve into the Blues Rock momentum with Kerry’s organ in hot pursuit, he is powerful and the band give him a chance to come in front to deliver the goods from Wilson’s remix on the track along with the reverb midsection part of classical turned hard rock effects of Peel the Paint

Three Friends is a symphonic ending of the suite which you can imagine on their third album comes full circle. It has some of the King Crimson-sque vibes between Malcolm Mortimore’s drumming, Gary’s guitar, Vocalizations, and the Mellotron coming to bring everything to know that the road to moving forward is not always easy, but remembering the good times that you had as a youth.

The bonus track contains Freedom’s Child which originally appeared in the 2-CD set, Under Construction 20 years ago, has not only a ballad, but with a country, soul, and touching composition that Minnear wrote. It is not only a beautiful song, but you could tell that the Shulman brothers already went through that passage through their Simon Dupree years and wanted to do something to move beyond the singles. And the 7-inch edit that Wilson did on the acoustic eerie reflection turned mind-blowing composition, Nothing At All.

The liner notes are done by Innerviews: Music Without Borders writer Anil Prasad including interviews with the band, Steven Wilson, and Tony Visconti who produced the first two albums. Anil has also done the liner notes for the 2015 reissue of Octopus and of course Levin Brothers, but I’m off-topic. It’s a great history covering the first three albums and it shows how much appreciation they had working on these albums.

The DVD/Blu-Ray contains short films of the ten tracks which include the construction of a building in New York on Giant done by Yael Shulman, Noah Shulman doing an amazing animated storytelling with Peel The Paint, Lior Wix’s animation of a young woman looking at the river of reflecting back with Nothing At All, The pictures of the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel from the Pantagruel’s Nativity lyric video that I could imagine Terry Gilliam would one day do a film of, and pictures of the band members as they were young reflecting on Schooldays.

It also contains the first three albums in its original mix with a flat transfer and instrumental versions of the songs. You could tell watching these animated and live action music videos is almost as if Gentle Giant were carrying the torches of Disney’s Fantasia and bringing it to life done the right way possible. Let’s hope next year Steven does a 5.1 mix of their seventh studio album, Free Hand. And in the words of Francois Rabelais, “I go to seek a great perhaps.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

King Crimson - Heroes

For me, since 2000, I’ve been a huge admirer of King Crimson after buying their debut album, In the Court of the Crimson King from Soundwaves that changed my life on real good music. Robert Fripp described King Crimson as “A Way of Doing Things”. Despite various line-up changes from 1969 and onwards, they’ve never done me wrong. Starting in late November, the band will start their Fall tour in the States this year on October 19th at the Bass Concert Hall in Austin, Texas.

And they’ve unleashed a 5-track EP entitled, Heroes which the band recorded at live performances in Berlin, Paris, and Vienna last year in their European Tour in the fall of 2016. It was also a heavier year after the loss of the late great David Bowie on January 11th, so it was quite an honor for Fripp who worked with Bowie from the Heroes album in 1977 to Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps) in 1980, to show that he hasn’t forgotten him and knowing to keep his spirit alive.

Originally known as the “Seven-Headed Beast” line-up, Fripp takes it up a notch with now known as the “Double Quartet Foundation”. Which considers alongside Robert Fripp on Guitar & Keyboards, but Mel Collins on Sax and Flute, Tony Levin on Bass and Chapman Stick, Gavin Harrison, Pat Mastelotto, and Jeremy Stacey on Drums. Not to mention Stacey also plays Keyboards. And Jakko Jakszyk on Guitar and Lead Vocals.

When you listen to the Heroes EP, you can close your eyes and imagine yourself being at those concerts and just being in awe of seeing Crimson for the first time or a dozen times and being in awe of seeing Mel Collins back into the fold. The echoing reverb effects kick into an emotional vibe from Robert as he takes his guitar creating the sustained sound that was in the original album to create the pitched feedback as Jakko nails the song down as a celebration for the Thin White Duke and the original sessions at the Hansa Tonstudio overlooking the Berlin Wall 40 years ago on the opening title-track.

The three drummers (Gavin, Pat, and Jeremy) come into the center stage in the performance in Vienna with The Hell Hounds of Krim. Listening to this track, you can close your eyes and imagine the sounds of Taiko drumming in Japan, but adding an intense and thunderous beats and tempos throughout their kit and cymbals. It’s almost as if they are taking you through a journey of world music on their instruments, creating the scenarios and making you believe that the beasts is right inside the caves and is ready for their feast to be served with a vicious roaring voice.

Easy Money is a classic live during those live recordings. It’s a fabulous take of the song performed live. Jakko is not trying to hurt the song, but to honor and stay true to the piece and honor the late great John Wetton in his arrangement which he almost sounds like him to give the stamp of approval. Mel’s snarling sax comes at you in various moments in the piece.

Almost looking and peeking through the keyhole and seeing what the corruption of the government has become all of a sudden, Easy Money creates the tension of the dark side of what they’ve never told you behind those curtains in that midsection. Collins does some free-jazz scenario momentum on his sax and it’s the tension that creates the mysterious atmosphere between himself, Fripp, and Levin’s dooming bass and the clattering drum sections.

The only criticism I have is with Starless. While it’s an edited version of the laid-back emotional pieces from the Red album, I wish it could have been 11 or 15-minutes longer as it goes through the jazzier and mellotron-sque sections of a dream-like landscape of the lyrics, it would have been interesting to hear a full-length version of this song as the band into uncharted waters to give the audience a mind-blowing performance.

For me, this is not a bad EP. Yes it’s short with five pieces, but it’s quite a small journey to see what questions and answers lay ahead for Crimson to delve into the waters for. But this is a small peek of what is about to happen when they hit the road again this October in the States. So be prepare to see King Crimson live when they hit the States again. And enjoy the Heroes EP