review page 1

Birds and Buildings ('07/'08)
Deluge Grander ('09)
Narr (09)
Vox Nostra ('09)
Elull Noomi ('07)
Markus Reuter & Ian Boddy ('09)
Cheer-Accident ('10)
Ciccada ('10)
21st Century Schizoid Band ('10)
Gutbucket ('11)
Mats/Morgan Band ('10) (link)
London Underground ('10) (link)

grading : * ok ** g  ***vg ****perf *****no better example than this: must-have heard, classic
with additional ° some tracks better  ; with ' possibly better for some (viewpoints)

Emkog Rec.  Birds And Buildings : Bantam to Behemoth (US,rec.2007,pub.2008)***°'

People might have noticed that I review less new and especially neo-"progressive rock” albums nowadays, and I intend to lower that number even more. But just now and then, when noticing some distinctive talent of a group, I do accept submission to promote such efforts. 

This is the third project of Dan Britton after ‘Cerebus Effect’ and ‘Deluge Grander’, and it shows a talent way above the average new progressive rock record. I was especially amazed by the multilayered complexity of how the opener, “Birds flying into buildings” started, with almost gamelan-like melodies, mixed with a sax solo, then adding a mellotron lead part, becoming more melodic, changing its complex rhythm some times and being definitely symphonic-progressive in nature. The first time when Dan adds a singing part, on “Terra Fine”, with slightly deformed voice, I was not entirely convinced by this, but the music, in a symphonic way, still makes up for this well. I was however immediately convinced by the female vocalist (Megan Wheatly) on “Chronicle..”. But when the male lead vocals return on “Battalion”, a strong filmic symphonic track and composition, this element gives a modern feeling : it sounds like a good addition. Even when on “Yucatan..” especially, the symphonic/progressive arrangements can become dense and thick, as something which usually happens with neo-prog, like on this track, there suddenly comes a strong and more intense ending; there are always thoughtful solutions, with jazzrock flavours, good rhythms or certain keyboard changes or some Spanish guitar, knowing always what to do to keep the compositions rewarding. “Chakra Khan” has interesting Spanish flavoured guitar with thick keyboard layers, including a Spanish flavoured harpsichord, mellotron and guitar duets, was another such a track which became a bit dense and thick after a while, while still evolving to a strong ending. More than once, and especially near the end, the group becomes very much one entity, which is one of the things that makes this release so strong.

PS. ‘Birds and Buildings’ now also has an additional violin player, and is working on a second album, to be published near the end of the year. Also Deluge Grander will have a new release ready around that time.

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Emkog Rec.  Deluge Grander : The Form Of The Good (US,2009)***°

There is expressed indeed a full “grandness” in the arrangements. This is especially very successful for the first three (of five) tracks. Here we hear creations of very rich cooperative sounds without any dominating instrument, and also a whole series of stylistic theme dominated parts. Rich in sounds for instance is the first part with nicely played violin and the mixtures with choir arrangements. 

This is followed by Genesis-like keyboards mixed with acoustic guitars, followed by a post-Scandinavian scene-alike mellotron with electric guitars, then a few intelligent symphonic-jazzrock rhythmic evolutions, evolving to a neo-symphonic round-a-bout-intensity of complexities, including some flute and violin and more electric parts. 

It is obvious that a lot of work must have gone into this. For the total concept this must have been some 2 years in the writing, rehearsing, rewriting, re-recording and arranging, until all was perfect. And the result is worth hearing having put in so much effort. Such tracks surely stand out well against the better classic 70s-90s examples! 

The third track is based upon a moody 2-chord keyboard/bass theme, turning once more, rather quickly, into more sympho-jazzrock complexity, which thanks to the rhythmically interesting bass/rhythm evolutions, succeeds well in overcoming a saturated feeling of the dense arrangements. Also the next track starts calmly, partly classical but then becomes mostly more neo-symphonically arranged, first with a not too complex inside melodic theme drift this time, having baroque flavours leading to much more saturating arrangements, perhaps because the melodic theme is stretched in much larger part, leaving no time to breath or to find another focus. The theme still thoroughly changes, but not enough to get rid of the feeling that for this longest track a more generalised dense method of arrangements is used. 

Of all the positive things I have noticed on the first tracks less of these qualities are used on these two last tracks. They fall back more on the melodic neo-symphonic area, due to the underlying theme and structure which could not have had much more made from it. Despite all that, the attempt has had its long moments of greatness but just fails to surprise as much for a full album's length.

Leading musicians are the Baltimore based keyboardist Dan Britton and drummer Patrick Gaffney. Guest musicians were mostly from College Park, MD.

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Musea Rec.  Narr Oxymore dans la chrysalide des rêves (F,2009)**°

Narr is a group wh0 started as a trio in 2004 led by bass player Clément Werner (also keyboards and baritone vocals), with Marti Ilmar Uibo on drums (and vocals) and Kalevi Uibo on guitars (this duo was also involved in ancient music with the Tormis ensemble, in jazz with Cirque Lunaire as well as in death metal with Bloody Sign), now also with Laurent Lefebvre on flute.

You can hear very much how the Music is composed and led by electric bass, creating a dark flavour to the Music. This bass often plays rather fast linear melodic, while the band, just like a powerrock or neo-progressive rock trio have their own sort of balance in sound, which they keep to follow the Lines sketched and driven by the bass player mostly, while the flautist plays a few solos on top just now and then. The music is song based but there are a few repeated lines led by bass. A very special moment can be heard on the fifth track, where the bass has a dark slightly wa-wa bass solo improvisation with a different than usual sound. Small touches of keyboards are added just now and then. Most songs are based upon a sphere close to metalfolk while the playing is progressive, this holds the group between a forest pagan mystic fantasy folk band and a neo-progressive band, a combination which makes them just in atmosphere remain a bit in between a few genres. 

-On myspace they’re befriended with (besides a whole wide musical range of favourites) with Stille Volk, which I understand well (in 2001 their great album “Le Satyre Cornu” was voted by me as one of the best folk flavoured albums, for its heavy electric parts with hurdy gurdy, something I didn’t feel that strong in other albums, where they found a balance of folkrock on the edge of metalfolk interests). The way of singing of Stille Volk and their atmosphere evolving close to something more progressive makes these bands just somewhat related.-

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preview cdr  Vox Nostra Anima (F,2009)***'

Like Magma used Bartok as an example for their new rock version, it is as if the band clearly learned/took something from this approach (especially in the harmonies of the singing and in some parts musically). But this is done without the challenging elements (as the sort of ground breaking approach which progressive youngsters tend to unclose). The reference towards it is more like a small interesting rhythmic change in balance towards more progressive elements with some more (and fine) electric guitar or like a different touch in the rhythmic complexity, while the fundaments sound of a much more almost religious approach, like in the concept of a Mass, using Latin merely as a liturgical language. Musically and spiritually this fundament delivers a sort of safe haven, with relaxedness and sweet harmonies, and use of jazz-melodic classical piano. Despite the leaning towards certain mellowness the musical concept remains convincing and entertaining, uplifting it to a certain mood in which the sacral/sacred elements finds certain variations and in which the progressive leanings certainly make it work well. 

Apparantly, guitarist Jean-Claude Delachat has played for Magma some time and has been a member of another zeuhl inspired band called Edder Stellaire. 

PS. The band is still looking for a label or chance to release this.

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Ex-Tension/Harmonia Mundi    Elull Noomi : Uléella (F,2007)***°

This French vocal only group had released this album on Stella Vander (Magma) and Francis Linon’s label. Especially on the title track (besides you can see the reference on the image of the front cover) you can notice some Magma reference, where some part of the vocal group repeats for a while, in harmony vocals, some phrases, and an electric bass and cymbals seems to have been imitated by voice alone. 

For an over 60 minute album the band really succeeds well in keeping your attention well, but I think this also reached the limit, for then you really feel what they are capable off and to what exchange their musical language reaches. 

They used their own invented language (just like Magma) especially suited for these musical purposes, a language which often still has lots of basic elements that are more typical of French language, so with its own elements of musical associations (like the same sort of rhythmic alternations and opening syllables for instance), opened up with some use of the qualities of the extra musicality that can be used in its language, like on “Nadaalis Emoo” where also certain syllables are alternated one by one. Besides the voice as a language performing instrument this is also used to add rhythmical accents (with syllables for the expressions of rhythms like with “sh/t/tkkddk/k”, or for sound imitating combinations like tshh,pff,pshh,tsh, or just for certain accents like e/h), or for melodic- rhythmical backing (like with the usual papapaa and tadadaa and tututuu and pampam and such), which leads occasionally to jazz improvisation techniques more than when it was created from pure sound-compositional ideas, this is luckily not overused at any time.

The harmonies are always interesting and sophisticated, and the rather spontaneous alternation of lead singers or new combinations luckily gives enough change to have enough interesting evolutions between improvisation, song orientation, melodic harmony drives, with more emphasis on certain layers of arrangements and polyphony and multi-picked variations of all this. 

A nice arty release.

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See also review of the original Magma band on next page->

DIN         Markus Reuter & Ian Boddy : Dervish (UK,2008)****

Compared to Ian Boddy’s latest solo release, this is a very different approach. It feels like some of the elements more commonly used in ambient music are used in a rock band setting, with stronger contrasts and more dynamic power, and with a progressive (music) feeling. “Dervish” is the title of this album, refering to some DJ dervishes too, provoked by some of the colourful steel sounds based on varied rhythms with gamelan and gongs like colours, and by some flute sounds. This part is played the King Crimson drummer and electronics wizard Pat Mastelotto, appearing as a guest on the album. In addition, certain contemporary guitar themes suddenly start to lead some tracks, with some chamber-orchestral arrangements appearing here and there to accent them. Like a melodic contemporary idea, this mixes into the already present and aforementioned elements of the music. Only the last and longest track remains in cosmic ambient mode, and is more keyboard based. The dynamics of the album are really appealing and deserve the attention of lovers of contemporary progressive music.

Limited to 1000 copies.

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Cuneiform Rec.  Mats / Morgan Band The Music or the money ? -2CD- (S,2010)****

review moved to the Swedish prog review pages->
Cuneiform Rec.     Cheer-Accident Fear Draws Misfortune (US,2010)***°

Seems like I missed this band which is already in the business for 20 years (since 1981). This is their 16th album to date, showing clear influences from a post Captain Beafheart approach mixed with elements of Magma, King Crimson, mathrock, near-jazzrock and especially Rock In Opposition, with the use of some female vocalist, namely Sleepytime Gorilla Museum's Carla Kihlstedt. This is intelligent new rock music with an important contribution of RIO compositional techniques with a good rhythm section. Weird is that amongst the crafty rational instrumental music we fine one or two more mediocre songs (with vocal arrangements that vary from a predictable musical intro to something much more interesting) while the band themselves keeps it all convincing. At certain small points/stage they remain closer to progressive rock. Well-composed newrock-RIO from Chicago.

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Fading Rec./Alt Rock    Ciccada A child in the mirror (GR/I,2010)****

This Greek Trio/Quartet was formed as a duo in April 2005 by flutist/keyboard player Nicolas Nikolopoulos and guitar player Yorgos Mouchos.  Todays, singer Evangelia Kozoni  joined the duo. Most other contributions were off and on (male singing, bass, cello, clarinet, trumpet, piano & drums). For the album and live also bass player Omiros Komninos joined the band. From the many guest appearances 4 members from the italian Yugen participated, and drummer De Grandis from (Italian also) DFA. 

The band succeed to keep a certain lightness in the near-classical arrangements, thanks to different folkier melodies, flute and the slightly old music voice of the singer. There’s a perfection in the arrangements, often near chamber-symphonic. Some of the later tracks, like “Elizabeth” are heavier with more dominance of electric guitars,with a symphonic rock core. This core hangs not only towards a folk(-rock) touch but occasionally also to a more jazzy improvisation. Very good !!

The recordings were mastered by Udi Koomran (who produced lots of famous RIO groups and some more serious progressive rock bands) in Tel Aviv.

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Gonzo Multimedia    21st Century Schizoid Band 
live in Japan, 6 november 2002 -DVD+CD- (UK,re.2010)**°

A King Crimson tribute band, sounds to me like a dangerous ambitious idea to fulfill all aspects in the most complete sense because which band could ever show a comparable vision to King Crimson ? Remember how the band was the product of very different characters, each with their own musical visions, making a challenge and a burning glass focus. How King Crimson is overly mentioned in “prog” reviews as if every composed electric guitars band and a bit of mellotron in such a band must refer to this band, just like all neo-prog tends to limit a focus on composed melody with rhythm because all the rest they cannot define well, obviously a tribute band, meant to please that public especially, tends to fall back to such limitations as well. Besides, their public will come for the tunes, and not the creative consciousness or processes behind it.

Besides who will incorporate the visions developed by Robert Fripp and Greg Lake to start with. Such a thing deserves another sort of school of study. 

I had to give this album a few tries on different occasions. There is a well recorded live concert DVD and the CD version of it. The hard blues-rockish vocals that started off, put me off at first, so I did put the record aside for a while to get used to the idea. Being prepared I gave it a final much more relaxed concentrated try much later. What had also annoyed in the earliest listens is that the drumming is following the melodic rhythms rather strictly. This way the feeling is getting stronger this is learned music from musical paper, even though the band practised well to play it as fluently as possible, and they have their own qualities which I will describe better later. In an original creative inspiration there is in fact always more to say than the track itself, while with a cover band you will hear always a bit more exactly of what you want to hear without more than that behind it. Even though, the band is entirely themselves in the interpretation and expressions, and in what they perform they know what they're doing. The sax improvises well on top of the music. We hear some guitar and experience of improvisation. My new and better prepared listen succeeded much better to give enjoyment, and I did also get used to this different sort of more straight forward complex drumming. 

Of course also I recognises the melodies. The very early Krimson is not always well sung, is about tune-based celebration, but then some other qualities are included which makes the re-experience better. The flute and sax improvisations give the music a free power. Basically when I hear the singing and songs the real band behind the cover band lifts their own inspirations up with King Crimson; I think if you would let them be completely freely themselves it would sound more like bluesrock with some jazzy skills to expand themselves, something you can hear now and then and which actually suits them well. There are attractive piano with flute parts on “Formentara Lady”. The closer “21st Century Schizoid Man” track shows one of the bands best improvisations, progressive jazz-rock with well working combinations of sax contributions with the electric guitars. This really lifts the band up to a level they obviously feel at home in. So there is more reason why they chose their name.

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Cuneiform Rec.    Gutbucket Flock (US,2011)****

Gutbucket has a couple of qualities, which makes this band very good. The band members each influences the communal compositions in such a way nothing ever sounds limited in structure, melody or approach, there are always compact openings to growth in ideas from within. While I consider the band as an ‘intelligent rock band’, with a bid wider eclectic influences and roots, for the rock element they succeed not to have dominance of the electric guitar at all, and most often, when the electric guitar is more in front, its approach does not direct towards rock and clearly the guitarist loves openings to a different experimentation. The sax/clarinet improvisations on its turn are most of the time not into any jazz standardisations, they often take over the rock and tunes lead. The bass line or cello also does not follow the rest blindly in rhythmic confirmation, it pushes, makes some contradictory attacks, also keeps all ideas serious. Now and then classical music minded ideas interact inside the compositions or improvisations as well. Surprising for instance was a near classical tune on sax on the last track, leading to a more circus-like tune to improvise again differently afterwards, a long solo before the full band takes its group energy over again. Very rewarding.

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