Interview with William Weikart from Obscured By Clouds – by Jez Denton

After thoroughly enjoying Obscured By Clouds live release, ‘Thermospheric’, Jez Denton asked a few questions which William Weikart was kind enough to answer…

I really enjoyed finding out about your music when I was asked to review your live album, ‘Thermospheric’. In that review I made the comment that this could easily be the sort of music that Pink Floyd might have made had Syd Barrett been able to stay in the band. How important is early Floyd as an influence on your music?

Thank you Jez, we aim to absolutely inspire and reach further into the quantum perceptive transformative states we all seek in music, life and beyond. We are honored by your forum and clearly open minded focus to include our new music, new videos, and lyrical elements through the journey into musics’ vast continuum.  We do crave the moments you may have in the first listen, having worked on these pieces so arduously over time as we reach the path and goal we set forth for ourselves.  Each song is a lifetime unto itself for us.

We do love Floyd and Syd, David, Roger, Nick, Rick and company, so we won’t hide it.  That is the only thing we won’t obscure.  Though truly we all are an amalgam of so many bands, we started off to compel local Floyd fans to participate through our obvious namesake.  Had we not heard from the Gilmour clan via phone and email we may have changed our name, but once we got the old pat on the back from Mr. Floyd we were off and running!  And the name has taken on new meaning in a world where “the cloud” and clouds now represent a virtual Orwellian oversight.

We honor the name by staying in the genre, but beyond that I think what you are seeing/hearing in our music is our continuing narrative of society’s estrangement from the people/musicians/artists who vitally hold out for their dreams to bring change and new being to the world.  We are holding the symbols and archetypes up to the light revealing the darkness of tyranny, oppression, faith, hope, happiness on the very edge of the cobalt blue abyss questioning the universe into the light that leads a way out of the indefinability of societal delusions. 

The challenge of the Floydian narrative is to bring out such revelatory peaks of conceptual muses through the virtual abyss and experiential highest azimuths to bleed out or flesh out our musical and spiritual journey on the page of  our lives in such a way that the revelation is not only freeing and transformative, but the denouement leaves one with redemptive revelations of the meaningfulness of life. And this is what Syd and the Floyd do.  In quantum physics one theory now is that light travels through dark matter/energy to reach across the universe.

The darkness controls the light, but the light is also freed from the darkness.  Floyd’s narrative of passion, abjection, suffering in the struggle, transcendence, in the penultimate unity of our struggle; it is symbolic of a vast battlefield upon which we must tame the beast-dragon of societies’ unconscious collective, and mend the blind spots of our own perceptive limitations and preconceptions.  And this is what art does, it frees us in the moment from ourselves.

And psychedelia in general? I for sure heard aspects of Hawkwind and The Edgar Broughton Band…

Hawkwind was a great discovery for me in college, I needed more Britt-psych.  Can you imagine?  I learned a song or two on guitar.  I would say there may have been a bit of a genre meld with synthesizers as Tangerine Dream ploddingly seems similar in some of the longer rhythmic pieces Hawkwind wrote and produced.  I never saw Hawkwind live, just Nick Truner’s Hawkwind I did see live maybe twice.  Not the same, but interesting.

Edgar Winter yes, Edgar Broughton Band not so much, but now watching “Freedom” performance it is pretty interesting stuff.  I like the interpretive dance in the middle of the song.  We are less bombastic perhaps, but just around the corner.

Obviously your music isn’t purely just a tribute to those bands who’ve influenced you. What directions did you feel you wanted to take the music in your work?

Music writing and recording are like sculpting, as you reveal the muse captured in the stone by removing the stone entrapping it within, in that moment it appears as something new.  Did I free the muse in my mind, or was the muse always trapped in the stone waiting to come out? 

Five hours into recording sessions you sweat, make your fingers bleed, jest-attack your band members with comedy, drink beer or wine, talk about life, and spend thousands of hours mixing and writing and thinking — it is a discovery of all the dimensions of life in the song and lyrics from top to bottom inside-outside and beyond.  Vocalizations, lyrics, feedback as in instrumental divining melding antics all come out on the recording often like you never could imagine before. We delve especially into experimentation and improvisation to crossover the border into the uncharted advent-grade seas in our madness and pleasure.

I tend to write the song as it is recorded, the magic is in never knowing how the idea of musicality and symbology of the song, and the quantum randomness of unifying music with lyrics will manifest and haunt our psyches, and eventually transform the new songs into new sounds to transcend the original idea entirely dwarfing the original recorded version.  Once the charts are navigated and the pieces come together I bring the band back in so the final takes have lived in their music for at least a few months. 

Then the final takes are more solid and song-like. Some songs are written and recorded quickly, but I’ll still linger behind and return to add the cinematic undertow to tell the story through sounds and murmurings of the subconscious.  

We have a new studio up in the mountains where the next album will be recorded, I will let you know what’s next through Alex Steininja our fabulously cool PR fellow at IMWT.  

Weird ain’t good enough, the next album will be exponentially stranger.  We can’t hide the cold comfort for change, irony is a double-edged sword cutting both as it goes in as much as when it is pulled out.  We are here to make a sacrifice as a band, and that sacrifice will enlightened us further in our battle against an unconscious collective.  It is a battle worthy of our artistic struggle in our creative significance and challenge to stand on our path to ward our clear goal to land the message of music.

‘Thermospheric’ is obviously a live album based on your studio album, ‘Psychelectic’. How important was it to you as an artiste for the studio album to transfer into the live arena?

I am not an artiste.  We are not here to be entertainers.  Anyone can go dance or rave or be a seer of visions anywhere, we don’t try to land the entertainer fish on our stage.  I also don’t flail my arms much.  If you watch the new “Thermospheric” (Live) videos you can see the band is connecting with each other on stage, we are inspired by hearing each other players knock out the sound together.  There are great sound and lighting effects and even freak’n lasers at some shows.

All Music Guide and other reviewers have appointed our genre to include “Art-Rock”, “Arty Grunge” Classic Rock Magazine, and “Psych-Art-Rock” which we gladly accept as being the extent to which we delve through the dimensions of strangeness to our music; as our voice of univocal estrangement we aim to artistically dream-weave the mind bending perceptive wall splitting and perceptive door transforming ambitions that are obscured by clouds preconceptions. The clouds of unknowing obscurity reveal the clarity and obfuscation in our music.

We also tend to have expensive lights/lasers and other large stage video screens to add the psycheclectic aspects of cinematic storyline to our live show.  The videos are projected onto the live stage footage integrating the music/lyrics with the actual cinematic revelations to each song, and it’s not random.  Louder yet, we are so damn loud we plan on enveloping you with our sound and digging a hole to take you through the rabbit hole to forget the sun. 

And through the course of thought and the onslaught of guitar  improv and feedback — there rises the sun-ray of redemption and revelation to relieve the tensions we bare forth on the listeners spirit and being.  It’s in those moments we can reveal our message.  Call it art if you want, but it’s really the depth psychology/philosophy of our music, creativity, musicality, tonality, atonality,  asymmetry, lyrics, cinematic spirit and continuity of our psycheclectic music genre blender.  Psycheclectic Records as a label first, then an album, and the bands you know who are true to their music to stand for what they believe.  

There are no breaks planned between songs as the conceptual performance flows like a cinematic undertow through the set list.  We are reserved a bit up there on stage focusing on all the incremental layers ahead, and the other moving parts like HD effects behind the curtain.

Floyd’s cool sensibilities on stage were paramount as audiences could see the band was so determined and focused during their performances, and the music was so loud that the audiences were passengers completely immersed in the trip. Progressive Rock is participant theater, the audience participates even if only as a witness.  The light/laser show is for the participants seeking inclusion for the trip. When I’ve seen Floyd live I was expecting  mayhem, cometary explosions, diamond-light beings emanating from lasers — Roger Waters wasn’t going to walk through the audience to bring us flowers, or hold our hands to sing us a lullaby. 

Instead it was like Orwell on bass screaming thy last scream with lasers!?!?! It was not an easy listen at all in their early works.  Early Floyd’s music was built by deft indulgence and was disturbingly primal as necessary, still vaulting choruses of soothing melodious redemption would follow just before more chaos. Just the opposite really of the melodiousness we sink into in the modern Floyd charting, sound, and musicality. It was meant to be more jarring back then as less so now, and early Floyd was not an easy listen.

We attended Floyd shows because we knew they were going fuck shit up and you better like it or stay out of the way, right?  It was art as the force over the commercialists; in that it challenged the commonality in our malaise of the ignorance of societal struggles, as vast symptoms of the universe were revealed, and then we understood a way forward to turn the tides of ignorance for the sake of wisdom. 

Floyd songs are as much about the unveiling of anxiety as thoughtful revelation through music and lyrics subtly transforming our consciousness.  Without the paradox, we could not be freed of the paradox.  And maybe the paradox was never even there.

For a long time now Obscured By Clouds expected to stand in the shadow of mystery.  We are challenging the status quo of the unconscious collective of the us and them to unify on all fronts.  This type of challenge and conflict does not promote well in commercial settings.  So be it.  Our art as music includes the conflict we are trying to dispel through revealing our message.

When I reviewed the album I made note of the fact that the music is challenging, reminiscent of a journey into perhaps madness, for certain something that owes a lot to opening doors of perception. Was it your intention that the music could come over as some kind of cosmic head fuck?

Hmmmm, yes I think more so mind-bending or freeing the injustice of our systemic oppressors needs a good championing, why not. These common affronts to our peaceful or thoughtful existence are truly ridiculous. Societal apathy of the unconsciousness collective limits our actions, perceptions, future, and dreams of a more mindful-artful world we could otherwise have today.  Why else would we need a soundtrack or music in our lives if it doesn’t produce the change we seek?

The cosmic joke is we’re all fucked if we don’t act, and we better find a way out through meaningfulness.  Indulgently my music plans the escape through raw musings and improved guitar, vitriolic anthems, rants, and lyrics as far flung prose about faith, death, love, transcendence and beyond.  

It is the irony of systemology that we strike against, not the mind of the individual.  So I get the primal head disruption you may seek or find in the music, but that is the quantum charge in your universe of your perception; as we are really freeing the ideas from our midst not limiting the ideas.  My origin of thought comes from a different place, a place that challenges being over the cosmic head fuck.  I’d rather you feel what you want to feel rather than we make you feel what we want you to feel. 

Floyd albums pre-Ummagumma and Animals, Meddle, Atom Heart Mother, Dark Side are concepts of humanity’s weight and society’s disillusion over the individual, and the transitions are with the revelation of the individuals struggle through the door and through the wall. My music supplants unworldly anxiety to dispel and dispatch the listener to walk through the doors of perception and tear the wall down. 

The door opens and you see that being should never be held above beings themselves, there is no privilege we must serve under to exist in sovereignty.  In our moment of life’s anxiety, anguish, or loss; we all can transform suffering into hope, faith or change.  In this way we are all fucked if we don’t change.  So let’s unfuck it up before it’s too late.

The music is I feel eccentric, and all the better for that. Do you see yourself as eccentric at all?

Our music must land a message often form left field as this psych-art-rock, so we better deliver, if we are too obvious and not subtle enough it won’t have that magic sneaker-wave affect you crave from your Floydian sensibilities.  The abstract must come from an unknown place before it can be revealed.  Breaking down archetypes and hypocrisy is eccentric and by definition asymmetrical.  The music’s abstractions of feedback, musicality, lyrics, tonality/atonality, improvisational leads, and from screams to cinematic murmuring all are asymmetrical by design — as the asymmetric must be eccentric. 

Syd and Floyd fell nursery rhymes as doors and walls of perception opening juxtaposed against societies’ unconscious collective where the challenges to our preconceptions and archetypes led our rally to tear down the wall. So for us to compel trippy contrasts we switch symmetry of chords-bridges and choruses in aspects of the music/lyrics to unify the redemptive feeling of being comfortably numb on our path as well. The guitar improvisational leads assemble asymmetrical eccentricities are part of the spell that divides and unites us. 

So if we dare fall short on the estrangement spectrum or of essential weirdness we may step out of our genre demands and into some sort of commercial endeavor leaving the doors of perception half closed.  Without eccentricity there is no Us & Them.  The secret we see and remain focused upon is that “us” really wants to unite with “them.”  We still are holding out for right reason in music, there is no division it is just perceived division and we are trying to dispel disunity.

Floyd is cinematic music, it is entwined with film and art ascribed in our perceptions of the murmuring dialog and haunting lyrics.  Eccentricity is the magic carpet ride.  Who doesn’t want eccentricity, who wants commonplace and predictable?   Not me.  I’ve heard it all and I want something different.

I love recording.  It is a dream to create strange music, lyrics, sounds and effects to push the universe out and beyond for the cinematic murmurings you hear in our work.  You can’t challenge the status quo without appearing eccentric as any challenge is always outside the scope of normality.  And some would say Pink Floyd is an activist band trying to change the world with their music defining the struggles of modernity.

We need that irony and eccentricity we feel from such bands’ directives that can subtly challenge  society’s blind spots or recondition such delusional preconceptions that limit us when exposed to the light.  Our band must be eccentric otherwise we would just be speaking herd.  I do not speak herd.  So that dance-along sing-along may be best discovered in a different genre. We are not interested in performing for popularity.

Really, what people perceive as eccentric today often is merely the fear of the idea standing against the crowd. And we are so damn loud live that the out-crowd yields to unite us and them in the fog of feedback. You never saw Gilmour complaining about feedback, or apologizing for playing the live Echoes solos searingly loud like an asteroid strike or a rocket crash. You can trust us to never give in to conformity.

What’s next for Obscured by Clouds?

Well you can watch all our live recordings in Seattle, Washington in HD @Youtube Red or a few teaser released videos on Psycheclectic Records @ obscuredbyclouds.comBlu-ray release date to be announced.

We built a new secret studio at around 1600 feet elevation under the shadow of the mountains we begin the next record, off grid, off world, and off to see the wizard!  We have a sky-deck stage for the band to play outside this summer on some acreage, the recording studio is inside where the amps are in the sound rooms.  With our head phones the band can dial in our mix and improvise our guts out to our hearts content on the deck outside.  The summer days sessions will transition into night as we work on vaulting our musical dimensions to ward the heart of the sunrise.  Stay tuned.

I would like to thank Kevin Cozad, Matt Bradley, Merrill Hale, Ian, Bob Raymond, Kentucky Overload, Sandin Wilson, Nick Moon, Reinhardt Melz, Alex Steininger (IMWT) and many other people for all their great work and passion they produced you can hear in the music and see in the videos.

Please check out Jez’s review of ‘Thermospheric’ below:

Review – Obscured by Clouds – Thermospheric – by Jez Denton

Review – Haken L-1VE – by James R Turner

 

Haken released their rather special ‘Affinity’ album back in 2016 and followed it up with a celebratory 10th anniversary European tour which, unsurprisingly, focused on that electro inspired album and its predecessor, the album that made their name, ‘The Mountain’.

Now, in the best tradition of all bands, they have decided to release their first live album, and what a package it is for fans.

Not only do we get a double disc live set taken from their gig in Amsterdam last year, but we also get the full set on DVD, complete with a 2nd DVD of their 4-song set at ProgPower USA in 2016 and the official music videos for Initiate, Earthrise and Lapse.

For anyone who was on that tour (and I was) this is a wonderful memento, and for those who weren’t lucky enough to be there, well, let me tell you more.

Its good to see Haken releasing their first live album as I get incredibly bored with bands getting on the album, tour, live album treadmill, especially where (particularly with the bigger bands) the set lists are written in tablets of stone and, much like dinosaur remains, are very much museum pieces. The key to a great live record (like ‘Wings Over America’, Wishbone Ash’s ‘Live Dates’ or ‘Field Recordings’ by The Fierce and the Dead) is its scarcity, and its immediacy. No-one wants to see a concert where the band duplicates their album sound live on stage with no spontaneity or the feeling that you are living in the moment, and no-one wants to buy a live album from a gig that sounds like the studio recordings, that’s the ultimate example of irrelevance. If you keep releasing live albums you lose your audience and Haken, wisely, have chosen a moment when they have a breadth and depth of songs to chose from and a moment in time when they are currently an energetic and enthusiastic live band with a lot of presence and charisma.

The current line-up of Ross Jennings (vocals) who works the stage like a frontman should which, added to the powerhouse drumming of Raymond Hearne and driving bass of Conner Green, puts that bedrock together to give Richard Henshall’s & Charles Griffiths guitars room to stretch. The keys of Diego Tejeida round it out and it’s the electronic sound that helps make the ‘Affinity’ material so strong on stage.

This taut and assured performance is reflected throughout this record. One of the treats for those of us who love the longer songs is Aquamedley, 22 minutes of the tracks from their debut album ‘Aquarius’, reworked and forming an integral part of the set.

That is what a live show, and album, should be all about, all eras are covered, with a rousing version of Visions closing the record. As previously stated, ‘The Mountain’ and ‘Affinity’ make up the bulk of the tracks, as songs like 1985, Affintiy.exe/Initiate and epic The Architect get a good work out, making their their mark on the bands set.

The only minor issue I have with Haken at this juncture of their career is that they seem to have their feet in a number of camps, neither being full blown prog, prog-metal or sitting in the electronic arena that ‘Affinity’ introduced to their sound. I would like to see them pick a direction (preferably the electronic sound) and move more cohesively towards it, but that’s my opinion, and it doesn’t detract from what is an excellently produced and sublimely performed live show.

With the superb bonus material on the second DVD, and the videos from their excellent Affinity album, this is a fantastic snapshot of where Haken are now, and of what a powerful and confident band they have become.

If they continue down this road, and hone their sound following the electronic influences of ‘Affinity’ they could be well positioned to be one of the defining bands of the new era.

Released 22nd June 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here

 

Review – Thorsten Quaeschning – Cargo (OST) – by Jez Denton

Reviewing a soundtrack album without having seen it in the context of the film it supports is an unusual process. How can you judge whether it is successful or not in achieving what the music sets out to do? It could be an amazing work, but not fit the film; or the opposite could be true, it could be awful music but fit the film fantastically. And indeed, taking the view of a filmmaker commissioning a soundtrack, how do you know whether a musician or composer will be able to support your work? How do you choose who will do that job for you the best?

Over the years there have been many artists, composers and musicians who’ve been able to work with filmmakers to create wondrous soundtracks that add to, compliment and help tell the stories in the films they accompany. At the time of the Oscar’s I wrote a blog on my own website:

Ten Movie Themes

about ten great movie soundtracks from the likes of Eric Coates, John Williams, Ryhuchi Sakamoto and Hans Zimmer who, over the years, have created some of the most iconic movie soundtracks of all time. To that list I should also have added German Electronic Techno-prog masters Tangerine Dream who, since their inception in 1970, have, along with their own original work, created soundtracks for films as diverse as The Sorcerer and Risky Business. Since original leader Edgar Froese’s death in 2015 the band has been led by Froese’s anointed successor Thorsten Quaeschning who was commissioned to write and perform the score for the new film Cargo.

Cargo, as described by writer and director James Dylan, is a taut thriller that tells a bleak but compelling story of a man trapped in a shipping container with just a mobile phone and 24 hours in which to raise ten million dollars to save his life. And though I haven’t yet seen the film, Quaeschning’s soundtrack does develop and soundtrack the emotions I’d expect the main character, played by Ron Thompson, to go through. Loneliness, despair, franticness, dashed hope and determination are all feelings that are explored by the minimalistic music created.

There is a sense of time slipping away slowly, a claustrophobic quality of being suffocated by the environment, around the main protagonist. This is a soundtrack that builds and builds, that reaches crescendo’s of hope only for those feelings to slip away in soft tumbles of quiet introspection. With knowing the premise of the story listening to this soundtrack allows the listener to imagine the story being told; like when I read a book I imagine which actor I’d choose to play the characters I’m reading about this album helped me build a picture of the visuals I’ll see when I do eventually watch the film.

As a fan of Tangerine Dream, as those of you who saw my review of their recent ‘Quantum Gate / Quantum Key’ album, the continuation of Edgar Froese’s vision by Quaeschning is work I really rate and this album is a fantastic continuation of that great legacy. But is that enough when judging it as a soundtrack album? For me the only question is, “Does listening to this album make me want to watch the film?” To which the answer is a resounding yes; I just hope the film can live up to the high expectations this fabulous work has given me.

Released 4th May 2018

Order the album from Amazon here

Review – Stone Angel Syndrome – Discovery – by Progradar

“Discovery is a conceptual piece, a journey through time and space, but also a journey through our own lives. The music is progressive with moments of heaviness,ambient elements and gentle, emotional soundscapes fused with electronic drums.”

And so says the PR information for Stone Angel Syndrome’s debut release, one I’ve had the pleasure of seeing come to fruition for Kevin Burlison who, along with Dave Blackburn, is the driving force behind this interesting project. The album was written while Kevin was going through some difficult experiences in his life (I’ll say no more as that is not my story to tell) and you can tell he has put his heart and soul into it.

Kevin provides keyboards, synths, piano, harpsichord and hammered dulcimer, Dave all the electric and acoustic guitars. Martyn Leckenby is now the full time bassist and also helping on this release were Andy Plemper (sitar) and Chris Davison with vocals on the title track and who also provided mixing duties.

‘Discovery’ is a challenging release, intelligent music that takes some digesting and understanding. The ambient arrangements are reminiscent of Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre (just check out (and the planets dance) in the Dark Eternal World and you’ll see where I’m coming from), floating in a vacuum with the whole Universe in front of you, your mind an open book.

The band have thrown in a bit of a curveball on the first two tracks, A shadow over sunrise & Trans-lunar express, where the lush textures and atmosphere segue into something a lot harsher and darker, like a jam session involving Edgar Froese and an early iteration of King Crimson. The music jars and crashes creating a stark and demanding soundscape that really asks questions of the listener. To my ears it works incredibly well but, to be fair, it is not for the faint of heart and your heart rate does come back to normal when the wistful scenic music returns.

The only vocal track on the album is the title track, Discovery, which closes this intriguing and soul-searching musical journey out with something more akin to classical neo-progressive rock. It’s a calming and contemplative piece of music that lends an almost spiritual feel to the album and left me in an incredibly thoughtful and reflective frame of mind.

A collection of songs written from an intensively personal point of view that leaves a raw and honest feel to an album that requires more from the listener than you would normally expect. Ultimately it is an incredibly rewarding experience if you’re prepared to go beyond your usual boundaries and I highly recommend it.

Released 11th May 2018

Order the album from bandcamp here

Alizarin Announces Debut Album and Track Listing

LOS ANGELES, CA – June, 2018 – Progressive rock trio Alizarin, featuring Josh Kay on guitar, Jon Damon on drums, and Steve Ostaszewski on bass, have announced their debut album ‘Cast Zenith’ and revealed the cover art, along with the track listing. The album is set to be released June 27th, 2018 in both CD and digital formats.

‘Cast Zenith’ was tracked both at Big Scary Tree Studios in Sunland, CA and at the Alizarin home studio in May, 2018. The seven tracks cover a wide spectrum of instrumental sonic landscapes and emphasize the melodic journey over intense technique (though the album does offer plenty of head-imploding technical jargon for the speed fiends). Consider if King Crimson and Opeth had a baby but were forced to raise it outside the city, due to an overabundance of djentrification. This may be a place to start but Alizarin is a group that strives to create compelling music that defies rock conventions.

The track listing for Cast Zenith is as follows:

  1. Faint Home
  2. Anomaly
  3. The Vast Enigma
  4.  The Window Afar
  5. Cast Zenith
  6. Gethsemane
  7. Luminous Apparitionhttps://alizarinband.bandcamp.com

    https://www.facebook.com/alizaringroup/

    Instagram: @alizarinband 

    Band picture by April Jones.

Review – Mike O’Donovan – No Time Like The Present – by Progradar

FOUND – Somewhere in Limerick – The Spiritual Successor to Van Morrison!

Yep, after listening to the debut release from highly regarded Irish singer songwriter Mike O’Donovan, I really could see that as a headline in a mythical Irish entertainment rag.

‘No Time Like The Present’ was recorded in Limerick, where he was born and raised, and spans many of the styles that have influenced Mike down the years, including the aforementioned Mr Morrison. Just listen to the opening track Underground and you cannot help but hear the legendary Irish musician and that sound and influence is at the heart of this involving, warm and nostalgic collection of songs.

Mike’s voice also has that halting character that infused Johnny Cash’s vocals in his later years, no more so than on Ghosts and If There’s A Time. The stellar supporting cast of musicians add some real class and polish to the songs too with some wonderful guitar work, brass and harmonica giving a real roots music feel.

There really is something for everyone on this album, the Mariachi hued It Was On A Night Like This, the 50’s smooth jazz rhythms of The Dancer and the elegant Santana guitar that highlights Distant Conversation but, for me, it’s Mike’s soulful vocal that makes this record such a good listen.

A debut that has been a long, long time coming, ‘No Time Like The Present’ is a wonderful collection of songs that shows a songwriter hitting his peak and you can hear the joy and love in every note.

Released 1st December 2017

Download album from cdbaby here

Order CD from the Irish Baha’i bookshop here:

CD – No Time like the Present, by Mike O’ Donovan

 

 

Review – Raging Twilight – s/t – by Progradar

The 1970’s in the US was a real melting pot of influences that produced some incredible music and defined the sound for the decade.Take your Neil Young, Eagles, Stephen Stills, Willie Nelson and the like and the blend of country, blues, gospel, folk and rock that melded into the sound of Americana that is still loved to this day.

Transplant that sound into the thriving live music scene in Glasgow and you have the possibility of some seriously impressive music. The competitiveness that this creates gives a spin-off where only the very best rise up through the ranks in true ‘spirit of survival’ fashion. Raging Twilight have demanded attention due to finely honing their sound and the playing pedigree of the musicians involved. This has given them the due respect and respect that has been properly won.

Their self-titled album is full of impressive tracks that take their cues from that pivotal 70’s sound mainly due to the extensive travels through Canada and the southwest USA of founder member Jack Law, who formed the band with Dougie Harrison.

The influences come flooding in from the first notes, Don’t Want A Lover channeling Neil Young, the bluegrass simplicity of Old Glass Jar  and Hope Sails The River with it’s Celtic hues and hints of The Pogues. The whole album is a wonderful musical journey through music that has influenced a generation of listeners and is an enthralling ride.

I’ve recently got into the solo work of Stephen Stills and can hear subtle hints of that amazing musician throughout, intentional or not. Dust Bowl Rust Belt Blues, Chemical Jayne, The Still with their elegant guitar and haunting vocals, it’s a nostalgic look into the past that leaves you in a wistful frame of mind.

Then there’s Nothing’s There, a superb tune full of English eccentricity that reminds me of The Travelling Wilburys, a real grin inducing song!

If you’re a fan of superbly constructed songs that take their influence from those greats of the past but are given an up-to-date flavour then you have opened the right door. Come on in and enjoy the ride!

Released 16th April 2016.

RAGING TWILIGHT – Raging Twilight (aRTee Records)

 

Review – Matt Baber – Suite For Piano And Electronics – by Jez Denton

Whenever I get a new album through to review from the great guys at Progradar and Bad Elephant Music I tend to download it onto my phone and put the headphones on to listen whilst I walk my dog in the morning. It’s a time, as the world around us comes to life, for reflection and to empty troubles and worries from the previous days and prepare for whatever is going to be thrown at us. And it’s a time when I can drift off to wherever the music I’m listening takes me, thinking about the images and feelings that are inspired and where I draft, in my head, these reviews I write.

This morning’s walk with Mungo was an enriching experience as the debut solo release, ‘Suite for Piano and Electronics’ by Matt Baber created an ambience that complemented our early morning enjoyment of the countryside around our home in North Oxfordshire. Baber, with reference to his influences such as Steve Reich and Keith Emerson, is a pianist and keyboard player of some sublime skill; the music he creates has a simple beauty and flow that is evocative and moving. It is not easy to categorise this music, as Baber himself says in Bad Elephant Music’s press release, but it’s all the better for that, this is music that gives the listener the scope with which to enjoy it how they wish.

When I was a kid I used to be inflicted, by my dad on Sunday morning’s, with easy listening piano ‘lift’ muzak from the likes of Richard Clayderman and that gave me a distrust of anything piano based. However, in recent years, I have found a new love for this instrument through the work of the likes of Rick Wakeman and Tony Turrell who have both released fabulous albums of piano playing. Baber’s album fits neatly into that new love I have.

As I walked across the fields in the early morning with my dog, two contrasting pieces of music came to my mind. Firstly, the work of the likes of Vaughan Williams and Elgar, pieces of work very much inspired by the environment around them with Baber’s suite having the feel, if not necessarily the style, of something quintessentially English in its backbone. The second point of reference for me, and which is the highest compliment I can pay Baber, is that, once I finished this album, the piece of music I needed to listen too was the theme from the film, Merry Christmas Mr.Lawrence, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s hauntingly beautiful piece. The lifts and drops in style and tempo on this album create that same beautifully evocative wonder as Sakamoto’s masterpiece, it truly is that good.

Matt Baber has created here an album that is, as Bad Elephant’s David Elliott says, ‘…intelligent and melodic stuff, easy to fall in love with.’ I certainly did, I’m sure people who take the time to listen to this will do too. Put it on your headphones, take yourself and your dog, if you have one, for a long, long walk in the fields and countryside and immerse yourself in the beauty around you and in your ears.

Released 15th June 2018

Order the album from bandcamp here

Review – GEPH – Apophenia – by Progradar

“Apophenia is he experience of seeing patterns or connections in random or meaningless data, the term was coined by the German neurologist, Klaus Conrad.”

Now we’ve got the lesson out of the way, ‘Apophenia’ is also the second album from cutting edge Boston based instrumental progressive jazz metal trio GEPH. The group consisting of Josh Goldberg and John Tyler Kent on Chapman stick and Josh Merhar on drums released their debut self-titled album in March of 2016.

Let’s get one thing clear, I’m a big fan of the first release going so far as to say,

“…you end up with a really intense and powerful listening experience that makes you think and it is all the better for it. GEPH is a band worth watching as they really should be going places!”

So this new collection of tunes has a lot to live up to. I won’t ramp up the tension too much but, suffice to say, I was in no way disappointed…

The intense jazz/metal/prog fusion of opening track Macroaggressions gives a pointer to what is to come, the intricate stick work between Goldberg and Tyler Kent instantly mesmerises you and Merhar’s obvious skill on the drums adds an off-kilter counter balance. It’s a deliciously dark piece of music that leads on the path to temptation. Whole Body Headbangadds mystery and intrigue in a chilling fashion, there is definitely a sombre, even sinister, feel to the music on these first two tracks and I like the intrigue it conveys.

The haunting, simple grace of Little Guy is a wistful contrast tot he previous tracks, just lose yourself in the near three minutes of ambient music and let it wash over you, leaving a carefree atmosphere. It segues perfectly into the laid back grooves of Get Your Insignificance, to my ears a track that defines why I like this trio so much. The Chapman Sticks deliver a real cool and collected sound and the staccato style of the drums a perfect accompaniment as the tempo increases.

“We kept what we thought worked on the first album all the while trying out new sounds, directions and ideas. The results feel much more organic to me, and the whole album feels as though it really stays with you. This is the best collection of music I’ve been a part of yet.” – Josh Goldberg.

The stylish sounds keep on coming with the urgency of Mourningstar the next funktastic track for your ears to enjoy. There’s an edgy, almost free-form jazz beat to the music and the baroque style to the stick play enthralls from beginning to end. That earlier dark and labyrinthine vibe returns on the gloriously moody W.W.F.D, near nine minutes of mystic, arcane and almost dystopian sounds that really get under your skin and leave you with a very uneasy feeling indeed.

The album closes with the space jazz/metal grooves of Back From Space Earth and the guys really jam out on this elegantly psychedelic tune that has your toes tapping and your head nodding to the rhythm. It’s tripping music for the jazz/prog generation and has a nostalgic smile in every note.

To my ears GEPH have taken everything that was good about the first album and given a coat of polish and added sophistication to deliver a collection of songs that intrigue and impress on every level. They’ve lost that raw, brash edge and matured into a very fine group of musicians who certainly know which direction they are headed in.

Released 6th July 2018.

Check out the band’s website for news on pre-orders coming soon – here

 

 

Review – Fates Warning – Live Over Europe – by Jez Denton

The reason for listening to live albums, for me, is one of two. Either it is listening to an album to remind you of an amazing gig you’ve been at such as Queen’s ‘Live Magic’ or the Marillion bootleg series or it is to get a different level of enjoyment of a band you wish you’d seen at their pomp, ‘Slade on Stage’ and Thin Lizzy – ‘Live and Dangerous’ being great examples. But listening to a live album from a band you don’t really know? It’s kind of a weird experience.

Such a band, pretty much unknown to me (despite a 30 odd year career) is Fates Warning, who are releasing their ‘Live Over Europe’ double CD (3 LP) live album on the 29th June. I didn’t really know what to expect and I must admit, seeing that there are 23 tracks on this release, I viewed it with quite some trepidation. It’s quite an epic amount of music to get through, especially if it’s new to you. Would I get through it? Would it hold my attention? Would it make me care enough to want to like it?

Thankfully, it answered all my worries right from the opening track, the masterful From The Rooftops. This is a loud, dynamic, symphonic and brutal heavy metal assault on the senses, a barrage of melodic noise, crunching guitars and a piercing rock vocal from singer Ray Alder. This is music designed to be noise terrorism, a building crescendo of discordant melodies voiced by an angelic voice; OK, a Hell’s Angel but still, what a combination they make.

It is Alder’s voice that truly makes this album for me. Like many more famous rock frontmen with great ranges, Alder isn’t drowned by the melodic noise behind him, he soars and rises above it, taking the various crowds with him, reaching heights that you feel can’t be surpassed until Alder surpasses them himself. The crowds are part of this show, the adulation and commitment add to the whole package of this album which has been fabulously mixed (Jens Borgen) and mastered (Tony Lindgren). The songs chosen are brilliantly paced, have moments of both introspection and crescendo; from the first tracks I genuinely couldn’t wait to see where the next song would go. It certainly has made me want to look up the studio recordings of this band.

In my opening paragraph I mentioned that one of the reasons for listening to live albums was, in a sense, nostalgia for gig memories the listener may have experienced. This album, in a weird way, taps into that idea too. Listening to the album I drifted back to a time when I saw bands like Iron Maiden in smaller theatre settings, or when I saw bands like Nuclear Assault and Suicidal Tendencies in club venues. It took me back to a time when I used to work doors and stage duties at rock clubs in the North East of England as security. It reminded me, in those days before health and safety and the wearing of ear defenders, why my hearing is completely fucked! If you know Fates Warning this is a must buy release and, if you don’t I’d suggest investing in it as you won’t regret it all.

Released June 29th 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here