review page

Thinking Plague ('03,'12)
Krakatoa ('03)
Darling ('03)
The Muffins ('04)
French TV ('05)
Hamster Theatre ('06)
Miriodor ('02,'05,'10)
Zaar  ('06)
Zu ('01)
Rational Diet ('07,'10)
Hasse Bruniusson ('02)

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)

Cuneiform Records        Thinking Plague : A history of madness (US,2003)****

The first thing that came into my mind when I listened to the latest release of Thinking Plague, is that this is "adult music", in the real sense, not as music which wants to shock, cross borders, in wanting to be ego-interesting, yearning for something beyond the normal, searching for crossing values without knowing how to contribute in a balanced way, etc..; the 'usual' term "adult music" usually qualifies music as eternal puberty instead. Of course this usual signification also means that children "should not be exposed", because it actually crosses a dangerous line. Sometimes this can be just a dangerous territory, but still an interesting exploration of wider perspectives, when well balanced within yourself. But for this music, with the newly phrased sense, it means that the listener only has to have an adult perspective on music, and a capability to understand it and its content, nothing more. Exposed to child like natures real adult music can not harm ; they can't get a grip on it yet. 

The music itself is really well balanced, with no unnecessary musical ideas. It works like contemporary music without really becoming R.I.O.-styled, contemporary classical music, jazz, but holds the middle between all this. It works very filmically, story like. I wish there were images with it, although I can imagine them. The story itself is rather dark, the music is "colourful" enough not to be, be it in more darker coloured colours, like the cover picture, with a real dramatic, but an ever controlled tension...

On the first 5 track one might be reminded at some moments of early Art Bears, with somewhat bigger conceptual and more strained and stretched out ideas. 
On the 6th track, "Our "way of life" and "War on Terra" there is a small dark soundscape added. From there the mood somewhat changes. 
The following "Least Aether for saxophone & le gouffre" is a beautiful very contemporary improvisation for sax, seemingly recorded live. The applause is carefully taken over by the somewhat similar water sound, now getting even deeper into moods and storytelling-like, dark and brooding tensions, to go back to the earlier kind of composing, with odd female vocal harmonies and the group's sound tensions.

An enthralling successful effort. 

PS. : Thinking Plague who already consist of 6 people received help from another 6 people.

Info (with audio file) : http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/thinking.html
Reviews of earlier albums : http://music.mainseek.com..
http://www.scaruffi.com/vol5/thinking.html & 
http://www.e-prog.net/bands/thinkingplague.htm & 
http://www.gepr.net...  & http://www.focusmag.net/data/review973181345.cfm 
http://www.rattaymusic.de/... & http://www.tarkus.org/...
http://www.btinternet.com/...; next review->

Cuneiform Records  Thinking Plague : Decline and Fall (US,2012)***°

On the first track of this new Thinking Plague album I still have the impression this is like a next chapter of the Art Bears project. We hear a contemporary melodic feel, led by a female vocalist and with lots of in-between notes of arrangements, especially in rhythm repeated notes on guitars or piano, some arrangements with clarinet and some similar contemporary harmonies on the lead vocals. A bit of mellotron takes care of moments of rest or the intellectual feel could saturate, which it actually does a bit on the third and almost 12 minute track, where one begins to wonder there isn’t used up a method to compose a bit too much without reconsideration. The three tracks after that however have a more powerful rock drive behind them, which improves the music. The first of these three, “Sleeper Cell Anthem, even has a bit more popular rhythm and this improves the music because all the other elements makes this orginal enough, with the contrasts making it powerful. After these three track then suddenly I have the feeling this album feels the opposite of the longest track, a bit short.

The lyrics are filled with negative thoughts of a world in decline, sung like a visionary opera theatre piece, describing what happened during the collapse while being in it, while keeping one's survival intact.

Audio on http://www.youtube.com/... & http://www.myspace.com/thinkingplaguemusic
Label info : http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/thinking.html
Other review : http://www.allmusic.com/album/decline-and-fall-r2381483

Amanita   Zu : Igneo (I,rec.2001)***° 

Partly influenced by the avant-garde chamber punk group, The Ex, this Italian band Zu (drums, sax, electric bass), when on tour in the US, recorded with guests Ken Vandermaek on sax, with Jeb Bishop on trombone, and Fred Lomberg-Holm on cello, a release that has influences from freejazz, avant-garde and R.I.O

The CD starts with the first two/three tracks, being a bit more demanding, with splitting-the-rhythm type drumming, a freaking out free-jazz mode mixed with a Rock In Opposition style, moving without a peaceful balance. Beside a freaky trombone I hear also an angry cello. It took me a second listen to get used to the semi-a-rhythmic-driving-more-forward patterns on these first tracks. After this, even more tempo changes are used. In later tracks this is also combined with some rhythms breaks. 

I especially like "Arbol de la esperanza Mantente Firme" and also "Monte Zu" where the rhythms are more clearly split and double layered, complex, but with still recognisable rhythms, and for its freak out driving force. 

The sax itself is another freaky element, even when its playing is more tempered in an urban underground jazz way. I also especially want to mention the great driving electric bass. In combination the style is very much like contemporary chamber music rock (with a Rock In Opposition reference), with a "hard core like" edge, with quiet and fast passages, without coming much to any real peaceful moments, instead moving, no, better : "driving" forward. It is music for the advanced Rock In Opposition listener. For me it was rewarding to listen to the music again and again. It surely is a recommended check-it-out for John Zorn fans, or for fans from his label Tzadik. Also for fans of groups like Ruins, Happy Family, etc., who would not mind hearing such music being mixed with elements of avant garde freejazz.

Info : http://www.zuism.com/index-en.html E-mail : info@zuism.com 
Label E-mail : info@amanitarecords.com

Burlesco Rec.Hasse Bruniusson proudly presents "Flying Food Circus" (S,2002)***°

Involved is Roine Stolt which I remember from his electric guitar craftsmanship with the often Genesis inspired symphonic progressive group "The Flower Kings", but therefore he was already known for his contribution with Kaipa.-.. 

Like in some other Swedish progressive music examples this is a project with barely a recognizable definable style. Instead it's a nice mixture of ever evolving arrangements with adapted references varying from RIO, progressive rock, jazz, Canterbury,.. with much attention to the composition. Luckily never just melodic, but with a ever changing balance between instruments. I am somewhat reminded of Samla Mammas Manna. Hasse Bruniusson worked with that group before and now he used even more a multicoloured style. The cooperation of musicians makes this work a fine example of neo-progressive music.

One track is with the help of Hakan Almkvist from Into The Labyrinth / Oriental Squeezers / cooperation with Ensemble Nimbus.

Webpage : http://www.burlesco.com/
E-mail : flyingfoodcircus@burlesco.com 
Roine Stolt's' Flower Kings page : http://tfk.progjam.com/

Cuneiform Rec.Krakatoa : We are the rowboats (US,2003)****

This is an (avant) after post-rock band that uses classical arrangements to enhance their music. The drumming sounds at first tracks at some moments a bit "dry" and this is a contrast for the classical arrangements ; here, this more civilized kind of this "after post-punk style" reminds me of the German band The Inchtaboktables. But the rhythm section is more varied than that. Sometimes it's with rhythmic changes (like in chamber music rock/RIO styled music), then it's smooth like jazz, with bass and piano, or gives the music a touch of more civilized pop. The group has a consistent style with a continuation of adapting other elements and rhythmic styles into it's advanced poprock style (including tango, skunk (?), classical music themes, like on "Sabre Dance", with a few quietly evolving passages, etc...). 

An interesting and creative sound, mostly instrumental music.

Info : http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/krakatoa.html

Private       Darling (Hal): D2R (US,2003)°

This one man group, lead by a drummer, makes a combination of bombastic neo-symphonic rock with only a seeming pretension of a Rock-In-Opposition group. It takes a ride on some kind of contemporary compositions (on the edge of the dissonance and the  melodic), which sound much more gothic than intended, and more often even sound like a midi programming affair. The actual interests are contemporary composition with a jazz improvisation edge and a rock interest. The compositions I guess are thought over, as paper music or perhaps PC written music. You can hear the band leader is a drummer, because that part is the best. The sounds of the keyboards sound overloaded and too melodic. Perhaps these parts would have been better if they were interpreted by an extra musician with an additional vision on keyboard sounds (just listen to the up-tempo “Clown on Fire”). If loaded, the “orchestrations” can sound very bombastic. In quiet compositions the limitations of the used instruments and approaches still come through. Although I read some positive reviews, I think the music might work mostly theoretically just as an idea. But the execution has something uncomfortable in sound combinations, which makes it harder for me to listen to the CD until the end.

Info : http://www.haldarling.com/ & http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/darlingrock
Soundfiles : http://uk.towerrecords.com/product.aspx?discog=1&pfid=2885838 & http://www.haldarling.com/discs/ & http://www.music-sites.net/articles/show.589.html & http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=13560 & 
Other reviews : http://www.haldarling.com/reviews/ & http://www.geocities.com/prognaut/reviews/darling.html
http://www.prog4you.com/cd-reviews-06-04/Darling.htm & http://www.progressiveworld.net...
Cuneiform Rec.    Miriodor : Parade + live at Nearfest (CAN,2005+2002)****

Miriodor exist already 25 years and is the Canadian Rock In Opposition opponent to Univers Zero and the likes. Special guest is accordionist/composer Lars Hollmer who had his Swedish RIO example, Samlas Mammas Manna & Von Zamla. Here he contributed with one composition, "Tarika", co-wrote 2 other tracks, and played on three other tracks. In general the music leans well to groups like Von Zamla, not only because Lars Hollmer is involved. At moments it has a slight intellectual jazzrock touch to the R.I.O. style. Another beautiful contribution is by bassoon player Lise Millet, making the compositions sound better, and making such tracks amongst some of my favourite. Also “Polar” with its intensity changes and well arranged strength I found brilliant. “Checkpoint Charlie” is the most experimenting track, experimenting with sounds and spheres. I think the band sounds stronger than their already strong former album.

As a bonus CD the live recording from Nearfest, recorded june 29th, 2002 is added. This recording is very well done (-mixed perfectly by Bob Drake-), and the music is absolutely convincing with a beautiful composition / group sound balance more in the direction of Univers Zero compared to the new album, with a few jazzrock touches perhaps (especially for the first 4 tracks). With the same easiness the spheres are entirely different, always with beautiful natural playing and a disciplined complexity in the compositions. The contribution of violinist Marie-Soleil Bélanger is also worth mentioning, especially for contribution on tracks like "Pas à ce que je sache, Sacha". This bonus CD alone makes this worth the purchase.

Audio : CD1 : "Scarabée", "Contrée Liquides" ; CD2 live : "Pyramid
& small audio framents : http://www.cduniverse.com/...
Homepage : http://www.miriodor.com/
Label info : http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/miriodor.html
Info on the Near Fest recording : http://www.nearfestrecords.com/ & 
(with pictures) :http://www.nearfestrecords.com/releases.asp?ID=14
Dutch review : http://www.subjectivisten.org/caleidoscoop/archief/001734.php
German review : http://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/index.php?content=review&left=genre&albumId=5773&genre=31
French review : http://www.cyberpresse.ca/arts...
Interview (Portuguese) : http://www.gaudela.net/gar/entrevista-05.html ; next->

Cuneiform Rec.    The Muffins : Double Negative (US,2004)***°

The Muffins were influenced in an early stage (from 1975 on) by the whole 'Canterbury' stage & style (Soft Machine, Hatfield & The North,..), an influence which still is present somewhere today (just listen to "Ugly Butling" ; "The man in the Skin-painted suit" even is a direct dedication to Robert Wyatt). Stylistically you can also add the 'Rock In Opposition' scene influence (like “Writing Blind” for instance), and some jazz (just listen to “Choombachang” for instance) or jazz-rock. 

Most of the time the group performs like a Rock In Opposition-rock group, and reflects some jazz influences, maintain some Canterbury influence at various points, and, new to the group, there's more programming added to it as well. I recognised it as a home-PC only more clearly on the first track, "The Highlands" ; I found successful new music with on it, namely "Stethorus Punctum”, or the relaxed fusion music influence on "Dawning Star". 

There are also various string arrangements, which I found most rewarding on "The Ugly Buttling" for instance. The track “They come on unknown nights” starts as a string arrangement composition, but adds other things to it further on. 

The group is mostly creative with all these things at once, only on a few times it's something in between. 

The most experimental track, with some Russian spoken word in it, might be "Exquisite Corpse", but also the following tracks after that are as rewarding. "They come on unknown nights" has spooky effects, with great keyboard / bass / middle-eastern like wah-wah guitar/drums. This wonderful weirdness continues on the track after that, called "Cat's Came". 

Only two tracks keep a distance from the Canterbury and Rock in Opposition and at first listen seemed a bit more limited in their own island of inspiration. These were the recordings with some Sun Ra Arkestra guests (Marshall Allen Knoel Scott). The first track of these, strangely enough is a more "recognisable" jazz-like track, "5 : 00 shadow", followed by the more free "Metropolis". At some stage I personally might have preferred them as bonus tracks, because they stand outside all rock influences. 

But never the less, the track after that, "Angel from Lebanon" drags you back in, in the adventure of the "now", back with all the great influences of Canterbury & RIO in the Muffin's typical group's sound. And also the next track, "Frozen Charlotte" takes the jazz back into a more rock attitude. Both last tracks, "Maya" and "The Two Georges" are logical, more easy going closers. Very good.

Info : http://www.themuffins.org/
More info on this release (various pages) : http://www.themuffins.org/double_negative.htm
Label entry on "Muffins" releases : http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/muffins.html
Other review : http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=15183
German review : 
Earlier release : http://www.rattaymusic.de/releases/Cuneiform/Muffins.Bandwith.html

PS. When browsing I accidentilly came to this odd ‘muffins’ site : www.muffinfilms.com/

Cuneiform Rec.Miriodor : Avanti! (CAN,2009)****

Miriodor produced here an instrumental rock album composed from a melodic new classical vision with a developed technique to do so. The rhythm section give the safe foundation for a feeling of arranged improvisation, without interference, with a flowing and steady restraint complexity. The electric guitars and keyboards use the usual strange new music tensions of harmonies combined with more normal harmonies, so that also a certain melodic fluent sufficiency shows itself. Minimal effects here and there are added as accents in between the musical themes. This is well performed and thoughtful serious rock music. I especially like the extra brass arrangements on some tracks, which adds convincingly more of a feeling to an improvised nature of the band, which add that extra necessary element to convince with a certain completeness to the intellectual and already well performed core.

Miriodor is Bernard Falaise on guitars, stringed instruments, etc.; Pascal Globensky on keyboards, synthesizer, piano; Rémi Leclerc on drums, percussion, sampler and Nicolas Masino on bass and  keyboards. Guests on some tracks are Pierre "The Preacher" Labbé on tenor and barytone saxes, “regular acolyte” Marie-Chantal Leclair on soprano saxophone, and Maxime St-Pierre on trumpet. 

Homepage : http://www.miriodor.com/
Label info : http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/miriodor.html
Other reviews on http://www.progarchives.com/album.asp?id=23010

Cuneiform Rec.        Zaar (F,2006)****°

When R.I.O. group Sotos disbanded, guitarist and drummer found a good bassist and hurdy gurdy player and formed with them a new band, Zaar. The band plays a very interesting and original R.I.O. style with complex rhythms, improvisations of adventurous wah-wah variations of sound experiments with their instruments (or at least with the hurdy gurdy), bits of recognisable hurdy gurdy (-a highly unusual instrument for this kind of music !!-), and some inventive acoustic guitar improvisations (like on the brilliant "Zolg"). The group plays relatively calm but is really inventive, clever and intelligent with their arrangements and combining harmonies. The first track, "Sefir", for instance, started with some distorted Electric guitar playing classical music in a avant-heavy metal style, one of the so many inventive ideas. I think I hear that the hurdy gurdy is processed with electronic devices for some special effects. This is especially noticeable on the longer track "Omk", which has a very beautiful passage lead by hurdy-gurdy, partly acoustic or amplified (combined with double bass). "Scherzo #C" is a crafted classic R.I.O. example. Also the last outro is with acoustic guitar. Recommended !!

PS. The band has also been asked to participate in a compilation CD, a tribute to the music of Magma. 24 bands in total will participate. The compilation will be released spring 2006 as “Hamtaï !” on Welcome Records.

(The band consists of Yan Hazera- Guitars, Cosia-Hurdy Gurdy, Pairbon-Bass, Double-Bass, Michael Hazera-Drums, Percussion).

Audio : "Sefir" (fragment) (fragment),"Omk" (fragment) (fragment),"Scherzo #C"(or here)
& more fragments :  http://www.musicoutfitter.com/store/item/045775022420/zaar.html
Homepage : http://www.zaarweb.com/
Label info : http://cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/zaar.html
Other review : http://www.lefthip.com/..
German review : http://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/album_6775.html

Pretentious Dinosaur Rec.    French TV : this is what we do (US,2005)**'

Not easy to place this band. The instrumental music of French TV sound almost like a medley, switching rather quickly from one idea to another derived from ideas that come from various genres with influences ranging from progressive rock to Zappa, performed with a dark Rock In Opposition flavour. It is like a musical patchwork stitched with a portion of improvisations of ‘70’s jazzrock. This way the melodic effects of the keyboards are overcome/overtaken. It is not clear what the musical intentions and goals really are. Various photographs in the booklet show how some musicians (and art director) built up an artwork of various toys and objects, glued together on a multiplex foam mountain in a way the eye of the interested tends to switch and focus paralyzed from one spot to the next. I guess the musical structures from this band are built up similarly. 

Homepage : http://www.frenchtvonline.com/
Band info : http://www.progarchives.com/...
Interview : http://www.progressor.net/interview/mike_sary.html

Cuneiform Rec.Hamster Theatre : The Public Execution of mister Personality / 
Quasi Day Room -2CD- (US,2006)****

With use of an accordion in RIO styled music one lands obviously easily into folk territories. Never the less for the first three tracks of the album this is not at all the case. Much more than ever on the previous album, they stay into the darker, still melodic, RIO territory, with a sound bringing them closer to the direction of groups like Thinking Plague of which Mark Harris and Mike Johnston participated with the group previously, and also on this release are partial members, also with some progressive touches on the guitars (especially on the third track). “Reddy 4 Luv” after that has more folk touches, and makes the sound again comparable to some of the few RIO bands led by an accordionist, like those with Lars Hollmer, from Swedish groups Von Zamla,.. Lars had been an inspiration before, because the group has covered tracks from him on previous occasions. Most of the time the group holds a balance between the lighter acoustic areas, darker technical explorations of RIO, and a podium chamber brass ensemble, honouring their name much more because the music would fit well on a theatre stage, has a few filmic passages. This is music of technical perfection and an attractive challenge mode. 

The live CD leaves in some controlled challenges, and succeeds well to make the music sound more as one big concept with more spontaneous development. Some of the improvisations go a bit wild (bass, guitar, sax, keyboards), alternated with quieter moments, something which works well and is utterly convincing, as elements that add some extra quality. The first 9 tracks are played in one piece. The parts after that is first led by the accordion. In combination with the sax some of that part has an eastern European flavour. Some freer and wilder part is the conclusion. “The Bug Show” is a bit a melodic puppet theatre circus-like melody on accordion, taken over by other instruments. To my surprise the conclusion still is weird enough after this last theme. A great concert that shows another focus of the group. 

Audio : "Ready for Love"
Homepage : http://www.generalrubric.com/hamster/
Label info : http://www.cuneiformrecords.com/bandshtml/hamster.html
Info : http://www.progday.com/Bands-HamsterTheatre.html
Other reviews (and descriptions) : http://www.allaboutjazz.com/php/article.php?id=22542

Altrock    Rational Diet (BL,2007)***°

This is a dense classical chamber music rock suite with a clearly Henry Cow/Univers Zero influence, with constant use of violin/cello/bass in combination with guitars and an undeniable bassoon (sometimes in combination with sax), and sometimes additionally, voice. Besides the rather difficult, wild and aggressive-for-a-classical approach, there are some vocal/lyrical sections too, which sometimes in a slightly chaos/structure fights against the music’s wildlife, using texts by Russian avant-garde poets Daniil Charms and Alexei Kruchenykh. The composition has something of contemporary music, while the way it is played this is more rock driven, with some chosen more percussive parts, especially when rhythmical twists and turns are switching the music, like kneading bread before it is heated up.

Info & audio : http://www.myspace.com/altrockproductions
Contact : Marcello Marinone
Italian review : http://www.agarthaprog.com/... ; next->

Altrock    Rational Diet : On Phenomena and Existences (BL,2010)****'

Rational Diet absolutely succeeds to extend a matured classical music approach to a wider range of instruments, like a modern composer, -all written by Olga Podgaiskaja-, and under the form of a band in our times should be able to express the same ideas of before in a new and more modern form. This also comes very close to a classical composition (in an old-classical, expressionist form), for which it has possibly learned something from Univers zero, like the idea that bassoon and drums and perhaps electric guitars (for Rational Diet) could fit perfectly as additional elements in a chamber orchestra. In that way the compositions build up perfectly to heavier parts. Besides there are also a few vocal parts in Russian, of which the last contribution (the 13 th track) is kind of bizarre in its singing, different but similarly grotesque to early Magma or Amon Düül II in idea perhaps, in its different high vocal approach. An improvement to the previous album and a very good example for how a chamber music rock approach works perfectly without being too rational.

Info & audio : http://www.myspace.com/altrockproductions
Description on http://www.waysidemusic.com/...
German review : http://www.babyblaue-seiten.de/album_10965.html

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