Review – Retrospective – RE:SEARCH – by Progradar

“Nobody who loved life and new experiences that much was ever going to get old, not really. Wiser and eventually dead, but not old…” – C.E.Murphy.

Don’t you find that sometimes you seem to stick to what you know, you are loath to try anything new or different because you may not like it or it may take you out of your comfort zone?

The problem with this way of life is that you can grow old and eventually die without having tried something that may well have enriched your life and changed it very much for the better. How can we truly say whether we like something or not unless we actually try it?

This can be applied to music just as much as anything else and even us music journalists can be guilty of this. We only listen to music we are comfortable with and will not go out of our comfort zone for anything. By doing this we then lose the right to criticise or critique music which we have only a passing interest in. We must embrace it, or at least try it, before we have the right to an opinion.

I have spent so much time recently listening to the pastoral and traditional progressive rock that I have neglected other music to a degree. I have redressed this recently with my delving in depth into Scottish folk and Americana and it was due to a good friend of mine, Aloys Martens, that my old love of a more metal approach to Progressive Rock has been rekindled.

Aloys introduced me to the Polish band Retrospective and their label Progressive Promotion Records, led by the uber-enthusiastic Oliver Wenzler, and a copy of the band’s new album ‘RE:SEARCH’ was soon winging its way to Progradar Towers for review.

Retrospective represents a young generation of Polish ProgressiveRock bands. Their music is inspired by different artists covering a broad spectrum of musical genres (Porcupine TreeTool, King Crimson). The band is not restricted to a particular music style either. They search for different kinds of rock, ranging from Art to Hard. Lush musical atmospheres, full of emotions, are complemented by thunderous riffs, to enthrall the listener and create asound that makes them stand out among their contemporaries.

They have released one previous album, ‘Lost In Perception’
which won the award as “Best Polish Progressive Album 2012”.

The band are: Jakub Roszak (Vocals), Beata Tagoda (Keys, Vocals), Maciej Klimek (Guitars), Tukasz Marszatek (Bass), Robert Kusik (Drums) and Alan Szczepaniak (Guitars).

I still get that same buzz every time I start playing this album (it must be 25 or 30 times now) and Rest Another Time once again opens with that thundering riff and dynamic drumming. The vocals are powerful but laced with pathos and the sound is as addictive as anything. Funky bass lines add some swagger but it’s that energetic guitar work allied with Jakub’s vocals that give this song efficacy and intensity. A really great central section to the song that just racks up the tension brings in mind Creed to my delicate ears, it’s a positive rock-fest of thunderous proportions and gets the album off to a very auspicious start. A great piano line opens Right Way with an almost hushed feel, matched by the stylish vocals that increase the anticipation. Beata adds her feminine wiles to the track and the tension just increases with a great keyboard heavy melody that gives the impression of flight and then Beata’s vocal opens up like a great bird opening its wings to be set free from its mortal coils, the vocal interplay is brilliant and gives an overwhelming symphonic prog overtone to proceedings. A passionate song that really tugs at the heartstrings and the musicianship is superb, these guys are at the top of their game here and there is a classy and stylish feel to every note that is played.

Crashing the scene like Lemmy on a Harley Davidson, bottle of JD in hand, The End Of Their World is a riff-heavy masterpiece of progressive metal. A sultry verse with husky vocals, underpinned by some delicate drumming, keys and bass, builds up to the huge, granite hard chorus dominated by the grooviest riff you’ll hear this year. Sit back and enjoy the ride and sing along to that addictive chorus, I know I did! There’s more serious mid section with mysterious overtones and wildly cackling voice overs that make you wonder if illegal substances may have been involved but, overall, it is a hugely enjoyable slice of heavy rock infused prog-metal. A nicely strummed guitar opens Rollercoaster before the plaintive vocals begin, Beata imparting poignancy and feeling and Jakub adding some urgency and steel to provide a perfect combination. You get a feeling of floating on air as this track seems to dance along your aural receptors but wait, the pace is lifted and the energy increases, mirrored by the insistence of Jakub’s voice. The softer edge has been replaced with some stylish metal and a cool melody runs right through the middle giving import and imperativeness to that harder feeling that now pervades all. A cleverly worked song of two halves that fit together well.

Time for a breather and the more laid back side of Retrospective. There’s a delicate aura to the opening of Heaven is Here, a chilled laid back nostalgic feel that gives lightness to your being. The vocals are smoother than silk and full of emotion and love and you find yourself losing yourself in the wistful atmosphere. The classy drumming and piquant guitar add dignity and style and layers of sophistication. I can feel a growing maturity in this band, a confidence to deliver what they want and what they know you will like and it is most evident in the swagger of the powerful chorus with the vocal harmonies that soar into the heavens, aided and abetted by the superb guitar playing. There’s a philosophical tone to the opening of Look in the Mirror, contemplative and thoughtful and this is reflected in the gravitas of Jakub’s opening vocal with his meaningful intonations. Beata joins him on the chorus sections to add even more class and sophistication to this intelligent track. I really like the purposeful beat and melody kept by the rhythm section and the resolute guitar work, it’s a single-minded and cultured song.

Compelling and energetic, Last Breath opens with an authoritarian riff that drives the song on at a demanding pace, influences abound all over and get drawn into a huge melting pot before firing out with what is becoming a signature sound for this impressive band. There’s almost a feeling of organised chaos to the song, anarchy barely held back but there is a primeval intelligence that is coordinating everything. Standby has a much more relaxed atmosphere to it, almost pop-rock but in a much more dynamic way. The vocals from Jakub and Beata are composed and easy going giving the song a laid-back and serene nature. There’s definitely a touch of Porcupine Tree and even The Pineapple Thief to this track as it goes a bit darker at the end with a fantastic riff and fiery solo adding real menace to it.

The longest and heaviest song on the album is also the final track and boy does it blow you away! The Wisest Man on Earth starts to crank up the tension with eerie keyboards and bass adding an ominous feel, very Tool like. Bass is really king at the start and Tukasz gives it his all, making the tension almost unbearable. Jakub’s demonic vocal just adds even more shade and darkness before a monstrous riff erupts from the bowels off the earth and nearly takes your head clean off. This is proper heavy rock with a touch of doom metal thrown in just because they can and I really like it. Never mind blowing the cobwebs away, this riff will eviscerate the spiders! Jakub shows the incredible versatility to his voice and I get the impression he really enjoys giving it large on this song. There’s a quieter section, Jaukb’s vocals still low down and brooding, before a superbly dark and delicious guitar solo fires from the dark pits of Hades and the song closes out in a sinister and portentous way, brilliant stuff!

Retrospective produce music that is aggressive and forceful and yet knowledgeable and perceptive in places, this is progressive rock at its heaviest and most intense. There is something for everybody and it is a release that will restore your faith in Progressive Metal. ‘RE:SEARCH’ is chock full of compelling and intelligent music that makes you feel alive again and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Released 10th February 2017

Buy ‘RE:SEARCH’ from Progressive Promotion Records

Featured image by Arek Kulasik Larido.

 

 

 

 

 

Review – Flicker Rate – Reframe EP – by Progradar

“The flicker fusion threshold (or flicker fusion rate) is a concept in the psychophysics of vision. It is defined as the frequency at which an intermittent light stimulus appears to be completely steady to the average human observer.”

Flicker Rate is an Instrumental, Guitar based Progressive, Post Rock / Math Rock Solo Project that fuses progressive ambient guitar playing with strong creative melodies and riffs to produce progressive songs that keeps the listener interested throughout due to the cinematic build that each song holds. Spencer Bassett played and recorded all instruments on this record, which was also mixed and mastered by John Bassett from the project Arcade Messiah.

Since then Spencer Bassett has been growing his fan base on social media, finished school and written his second EP ‘Reframe’ Flicker Rate fans have been looking forward to what Spencer Bassett has in store for 2017.

I reviewed Spencer’s first eponymous Flicker Rate EP and had this to say about this talented young man:

“What Spencer has done though is mould it into his own creation and it is something of which he should be very proud. Keep an eye out for Flicker Rate, this is a musical project that is definitely going places.”

He’s an unassuming, affable young man and has always been unfailingly polite whenever I have spoken to him and this is reflected in the meticulous creativity of his music. The opening and title, track Reframe is a wistful, cultured piece of music that brings to mind days of sepia tinged nostalgia. The hazy days of high summer when you had not a care in the world. Let the sun warm your back and the wonderful music wash over you.

There’s more of an edgy tone to Summit with it intricate riffing and stylistic drums. Inventive and intelligent, there’s a questing tone to the insistent beat, one that gets under your skin and won’t let go. Spencer has all the chops and is happy to let us see that but is never pretentious in any way and is also content to ply his own trade and not hang on to the coat tails of his illustrious father. Where John Bassett has become king of the incredibly dense wall of sound, Spencer is a whole lot more subtle and understated in his style. There’s a lovely about-face towards the end of the song where the music takes on a more sombre tone and feel, bringing the ambience low down and laid back and the song closes with an air of mystery and unfinished business.

Spectrum has a real world music, jazzy character from the start, the staccato guitar and drums almost reminding me of Flamenco at times. An uplifting melody but also one that has a serious undertone, a performer who is playing through some unknown pain or tragedy perhaps, it certainly touched a nerve with me in parts. Clever and creative.

The final track on this EP is Airspace, a thoughtful and contemplative piece of music that could have been taken from the soundtrack of a science fiction movie. It may just be me but, at times, I was getting transported back to 1981 and ‘Ghost In The Machine’, released by the legendary The PoliceThe repeated rhythm of the guitar and the sober, serious deadpan delivery just reminded me of tracks like Spirits In The Material World and Invisible Sun. It is a song that shows the growing maturity of this excellent musician.

Spencer has, once again, exceeded my expectations with his latest Flicker Rate release. Improving on the debut EP but still keeping his signature character, ‘Reframe’ is a composed and self-assured piece of work that showcases his talent brilliantly, we just need more of it!

Released 10th March 2017

Buy ‘Reframe’ from bandcamp

 

 

Review – Tom Slatter – Happy People – by David Rickinson

Tom Slatter – ‘Happy People’.

I started off this review by writing a load of overblown drivel about Steampunk Troubadours and Stalinist Dystopias.

But then I stopped, because I realised there is not a lot that needs to be said about this album.

It is BRILLIANT.

What can I say about this album that doesn’t sound hyperbolic? It is, glorious, filled with horror, tenderness, despair, love, grime and beauty. Whilst being much darker and more serious than any of Tom’s previous albums, it is imbued with a humanity which hasn’t been as obvious before (unless songs about men transforming themselves into machines counts as humanity).

I have suspected for a while (since first hearing Rise Another Leaf from “Three Rows of Teeth”) that Tom actually has a large romantic streak running through him. On this album he has really found this voice – songs such as Satellites, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said and Fire Flower Heart highlight this.

By the third song Satellites, with its lovely bass line, the album really gets into a stride which doesn’t then let up until the end.

Flow My tears, The Policeman Said is, I think, about a once honourable man who is now lost in some nightmare Gulag. I may be wrong. But it is superb, full of little musical flourishes and curlicues.

Even Then We’re Scared with its hint of a Black Sabbath “War Pigs” riff tells of how even with guns, fire, prayer, walls, databases and hiding under our blankets we are still scared of unnamed monsters.

“If you’ve got nothing to hide, then why should you be worried? There a price to be free…”, I don’t for a minute believe that Tom approves of the way our world is turning. I would love to hear the last 20 seconds live, as a 10 minute wig-out by a full band.

Fire Flower Heart is imbued with a delicate poignancy, lamenting the loss of a love who could possibly prevent disaster. Or maybe she would encourage him to press the button?

I get the feeling that all Tom’s previous works were a flexing of musical muscles, practicing for the real thing. This album is the real thing.

In no small part, I suspect that the excellence of this album is due to the work of two particular people – Jordan Brown and Daniel Bowles who between them played bass, keyboards and guitar and provided production expertise. They have found a way to get the best out of Tom.

Michael Cairns’ drumming contribution is tasteful, thankfully never overpowering the songs.

There is a strength and depth to the musical arrangements throughout the whole album – everything has a purpose to it.

Bad Elephant Music continue to astound me with the excellence of their releases. If there was any justice in the world, Radio 6 and Jools Holland would be full of music like this.

I cannot recommend this album highly enough.

Tom Slatter – vocals, guitars

Daniel Bowles – backing vocals, guitars, keyboards

Jordan Brown – bass, backing vocals, keyboards

Michael Cairns – drums

Suzette Stamp – backing vocals

Released 17th March 2017.

Buy ‘Happy People’ from Bad Elephant Music at bandcamp

 

 

 

 

 

 

NAPOLEON IIIRD ANNOUNCES FIRST NEW ALBUM IN 6 YEARS / SHARES VIDEO FOR ‘THE SCRAPE’

In the six years since his last album, ‘Christiana’, James Mabbett aka Napoleon IIIrd has covered a fair amount of distance, both emotional and literal. The culmination of that journey results in the release of his new album, ‘The Great Lake’ on 19 May 2017 (Hatch Records). A five track exploration of the possibilities of song structures within experimental soundscapes thematically wedded to James’ personal experiences of grief, ‘The Great Lake’ is paradoxically an album full of human warmth and emotion and a strident piece of abstract art, the collision point between the theory of Basinski and the melody of Northern Soul.
Now he has shared the first video taken from the album. James himself describes ‘The Scrape’ as ‘the point where sorrow becomes destructive’. The video for track was shot in a flood damaged, abandoned automotive silicon hose factory in Mirfield, West Yorkshire. The building was raised to the ground just weeks after this film was shot and a Lidl is to be built in its place.  He adds, ‘I think somehow and in some way, this might be kind of fitting. The price of love is grief and grief can be so hard we can forget what love is.I am a temporary carbon marker. I am merely conjoined space. Like death, the fight to survive consumes us.’
Watch ‘The Scrape’:

The genesis for the album came with James’ move to London from Yorkshire in 2011. Journeying through the centre of the metropolis by bus every day he found solace in immersion in ambient and noise experiments as a travelling soundtrack, recontextualising the chaos and thrum of the city around him into something more surreal and passive.
Returning to West Yorkshire and settling in the artistic enclave of Holmfirth, a town perhaps best known for light Sunday evening comedy but inhabited by a vibrant creative community, James set about reconstituting his band and inviting friends to join him on the recordings. The core group of Nestor Matthews (Menace Beach, Sky Larkin) on drums, John Leaman on guitar, Bob McDougall on bass and Oli Bentley on saxophone; an instrument that James had previously felt a strong aversion to but elected to place at the heart of the composition and use tonally to challenge himself, gathered together in March 2015 at Greenmount studios in Leeds and recorded the tracks in four weeks.
Additional contributions came from Joel Midden, aka Bastardgeist, on backing vocals, Tom Rogerson (Three Trapped Tigers) on piano, Neil Walsh (Smoke Fairies) on voila, Susie Gills on violin and Jasmine Neale on cello. Whilst James recorded the strings at Dreamtrak, a friend’s studio in London, the remainder contributed via the internet, their additions coming from locales as divergent as Berlin, New York and Brighton. The artwork for the album, an integral part of the concept alongside the films that will accompany many of the tracks, was created by Holmfirth resident Freya Stockford, a name on the rise in contemporary art and graduate of Glasgow School Of Art
The lyrical tone for ‘The Great Lake’ had been set during the demoing process in London but was brought into sharp relief by personal experience for James. Having settled on an album that dealt with the big themes of humanity, the death of his grandparents within one exact calendar year sharpened that theme into an exploration of the five stages of grief, travelling through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before arrival at acceptance. Which may not sound like the most fulfilling listen yet, from such dark subject matter, ‘The Great Lake’ creates a world replete with hope and transcendence.
Central to the album is track 4, ‘And the You in Between the Space’. Clocking in at 19 minutes and 25 seconds, this three-part piece embodies all the aspects of the album and is a stark example of the bravery of James’ approach to the recording, his desire to challenge both himself and listener. Dropping to almost silence at its midpoint before building to a glorious, joyful climax, the album’s markers of tone, structure, melody, ambience and mood are all displayed within its boundaries; a rejoinder to those who suggest that contemporary music has nowhere left to travel.
‘Channels influences as far-flung as Brian Wilson, Balearic house and space rock’ – The Guardian
‘Has the relentless, cycling industry and digital-soup density of Animal Collective’ – The Independent
‘Imagine if Springsteen’s soul had been captured by synth-wielding Europeans and sent on an odyssey by anarcho-syndicalists intent on breaking into Bletchley Park to hold a disco’ – NME
‘One of the most visionary artists in the world today’’ – Drowned in Sound

 

sleepmakeswaves share new track ‘Into the Arms of Ghosts’ / Added to ArcTanGent Festival

Post-rock trailblazers sleepmakeswaves have continued their massive start to 2017 by sharing another new track from their upcoming album “Made of Breath Only” set for release on Friday 7th April through Bird’s Robe Records. Speaking about ‘Into The Arms of Ghosts’ guitarist Otto Wicks-Green comments:
 
“This track was one of the last songs to come together on the record, despite comprising some parts that were amongst the first to be written (the lead melody for instance). It’s one of the darker and heavier moments on the album and deals more directly with feelings around loss and adjustment to that. The soaring lead lines made our producer Nick joke that it should be the soundtrack to someone jumping off a mountain in a parachute before landing in a stadium with a guitar. We should really try and get that happening.”

sleepmakeswaves recently wrapped up a massive sold out tour with reunited alternative rock legends COG, as well as touring extensively across North America and their own headline tour in Australia, clocking up 54 shows in support of the single and video ‘traced in constellations.’
The band’s busy schedule follows their epic 55-date, 22-country ‘Great Northern’ tour of 2015 and 10 Australian tours, 4 European tours, 2 US tours and shows across Asia and New Zealand since their release of their debut album ‘…and so we destroyed everything’ in 2011. In 2014, they successfully raised $30,000 in pre-orders to help fund the recording of ‘Love of Cartography’. Currently on tour in China the band have also been added to the line-up for this year’s ArcTanGent festival in August.
New album “Made of Breath Only” is out 7th April in the UK.
sleepmakeswaves China headline tour
Thu March 9 – Mao Livehouse, Hangzhou CHINA
Fri March 10 – Mao Livehouse, Shanghai CHINA
Sat March 11 – Yugong Yishan, Beijing CHINA
Sun March 12 – Ola Space, Nanjing CHINA
Tue March 14 – Nuts, Chongqing CHINA
Wed March 15 – Little Bar Space, Chengdu CHINA
Thu March 16 – Vox, Wuhan CHINA
Fri March 17 – Fei Livehouse, Guangzhou CHINA
Sat March 18 – B10, Shenzhen CHINA
Sun March 19 – Hidden Agenda, Hong Kong CHINA
sleepmakeswaves Australian headline tour
Fri March 24 – Metro Theatre, Sydney NSW
Sat March 25 – Max Watt’s, Melbourne VIC
Thu March 30 – ANU Bar, Canberra ACT
Fri March 31 – Cambridge Hotel, Newcastle
Thu April 6 – The Gov, Adelaide SA
Fri April 7 – Badlands, Perth WA
Sat April 8 – Max Watt’s, Brisbane
sleepmakeswaves Australia & New Zealand tour w/Devin Townsend Project (CAN)
Thu May 18 – Powerstation, Auckland NZ
Sat May 20 – The Triffid, Brisbane QLD
Mon May 22 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney NSW
Wed May 24 – 170 Russell, Melbourne VIC
Fri May 26 – Capitol, Perth WA
Tickets for all shows from www.sleepmakeswaves.com

Review – Alan Reed – Honey On The Razor’s Edge – by Kevin Thompson

Meteorological Spring is in the air and there is a buzz around the Progressive music scene which is currently a veritable hive of activity.

Music in general has seen an influx of singer/songwriters, some more of the worker bee type, scattered like pollen among the genres and trying to stick to a secure career, whilst others clearly stand out from the crowd as prime males with honey sweet tunes fit to serenade a Queen, the two recent releases from Marc Atkinson and Lee Maddison being fine examples.

Into the honeycomb flies Alan Reed with sophomore album ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’ and this time there’s a grittier, more assertive edge reminiscent of his work with his previous band and with echoes of solo outings by a certain fellow Scotsman nearing the twilight years of his musical output.

I have to admit that whilst I like Alan’s first solo outing it felt like it didn’t have his full confidence and was maybe reflecting in his situation at that time. With this album there is no hesitance and it’s straight in with up-tempo rippling keyboards and electric riffs on first track My Sunlit Room. Alan sounds in fine fettle blowing away any faint concerns as his vocal pipes dance a highland fling through the melody in this rousing starter that crashes to an end.

Now I mentioned another of Alan’s fellow countrymen and I have to say the main riff on Razor is very reminiscent of his output, but Alan adds his familiar style and harmonica flourishes (courtesy of  a certain Mr Steve Hackett no less), as he argues with himself and exorcises demons. There is a great video release of this track on YouTube to enhance your listening pleasure on which Alan shows he’s moving on not looking back. My inside sources tell me he may have had sore skin after filming numerous takes for the video. Ah, the sacrifices a man makes for his art.

Cross My Palm with silver and I’ll be only too happy to tell you this is a man who is not sitting on his laurels as he warns of treachery in the big smoke, but there’s no need to worry,  with some nifty guitar soloing from Jeff Green and the keyboard flourishes of Mike Stobbie building to a crescendo finish it’s another belter.

Notable for their relegation until now, up pop the familiar acoustic strings on Leaving (no cause for alarm, he’s not just yet) as vocals wrangle, with lovely female harmonies on the chorus, over a twisted relationship. Now I might be mistaken but ageing ears cannot distinguish whether this track is bolstered by the stunning sound of the one and only ‘Leode’ from none other than Lazuli’s Claude Leonetti or an Ebow, either way c’est formidable.

I must also point out that Alan has an enviable trio of fine female singers assisting him on this album in Magenta’s Christina Booth, Harvest’s Monique Van Der Kolk and Weendo’s Laetitia Chaudemanche adding the cream on top of some tracks here, giving him vocal riches beyond avarice.

Not content to let the lady leave he begs she stay to the Other Side Of Morning, as he reasons with her over their differences and similarities, the good must surely out-way the bad times and Mike gets to bare the whites of his keyboards as stalwart drummer Scott Higham more than ably keeps the rhythm and beating heart of this track pumping, as he does throughout the album. This, the longest track on here builds to a fevered climax that is completed with one last gasping ‘stay’.

History lesson time, as this next track is about The Covenanter. Covenanters were Scottish Presbyterians who in 1638 signed the “National Covenant” to uphold the Presbyterian religion, and the “Solemn League and Covenant” of 1643 which was a treaty with the English Parliamentarians. The Covenanter’s made a stand for political and religious liberty that led to almost a century of persecution and their widespread migration to Ulster and the American colonies.

But their role in history was not as simple as that, as they were the children of the Protestant Reformation in Europe and sought to have the church of their belief, according to the Scriptures. Above all, there was but one Head of the Kirk – Jesus Christ, and they refused to accept the King in that role. From this opposition to the King all their troubles arose. Ushered in by the sounds of unrest, Alan protests with righteous indignation and berates the persecutors and liars throughout, casting light on Celtic roots at the heart of much of Alan’s musical heritage.

Alan is a gifted poet and romanticist, with the ability to touch the hardest of hearts, as on the penultimate track, recalling a love lost who ‘looked at me, like I Used To Be Someone. With  a   beautiful instrumental introduction and beat me with a haggis if I’m wrong but it may just be flowing from the lovely ‘Leode’. Tinkling ivories and guitar loops sway like smitten lovers on the dance floor in time to Alan’s lyrics. For me he never sounds better than on tracks like this, as the emotion he injects into his voice feels so genuinely heartfelt. The music swells and the wonderful sound from the beginning floats in again before the vocals tug gently at the heartstrings one last time to float delicately away on fading notes.

Alan’s work may take him away from his homeland, but whilst you can take the wee laddie out of Scotland, you can’t take Scotland out of the man, as he looks to the Northern Light on the final offering of wistful musicality which midway through turns into an instrumental clash of clans before the keyboards kick thistles into the faces of the rest and triumphantly lead us out.

This is an album through which threads of tartan tinged tunes dance a merry jig with modern rock forces, and Alan has surrounded himself with an array of accomplished musicians to enhance the tunes pushing him firmly to the fore among his peers. I mentioned a certain fellow Scot earlier and Alan’s physical stature may not match the  Big Man’s but this album proves he could well fill  upcoming vacant boots.

Having had the great pleasure of meeting Mr Reed a couple of times he is a most affable chap, always willing to take the time to chat. Whilst in conversation with one of his colleagues on this album,he was described as very difficult to work with, but it was said with a wry smile and bundles of affection, because that’s the effect he has on you.

Alan is one of the nice guys in this business and he deserves every success with ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’, it’s a braw album. Slange!

Released 14th March 2017

Buy ‘Honey On The Razor’s Edge’ from The Merch Desk

 

 

Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly Sign To InsideOut For New Album ‘On Her Journey To The Sun’

Following last years disbanding of Sweden’s much-loved progressive rockers Beardfish, vocalist and driving force Rikard Sjöblom has turned his attention to his solo project Rikard Sjöblom’s Gungfly, and signed with InsideOutMusic for the release of their next album ‘On Her Journey To The Sun’ on 19th May 2017.

Rikard had this to say: Gungfly was born out of necessity, songs came to life whenever there was downtime with Beardfish or if a song didn’t quite fit within Beardfish’s (otherwise quite broad and eclectic) frame of styles. I basically started recording songs, mainly pop-oriented material, but being the type of songwriter and musician I am, some prog slipped through the radar as well. With the break-up of Beardfish all of the prog-related material I write needed to go somewhere and Gungfly was ready and able for this step!”

Band photo by Peder Andersson.

Review – Steve Hackett – The Night Siren – by Rob Fisher

The bewitching call of the Sirens is reported to have been irresistible. Mesmerised by the enchanting beauty of their songs, sailors were lured to their inevitable destruction on the rocks surrounding Scylla and Charybdis. Only two people are recorded as having escaped the compelling singing of these beautiful hybrid creatures: Odysseus returning home from the Trojan War who ordered his men to fill their ears with wax whilst lashing himself to the mast of his ship and Jason, leading his Argonauts to find the Golden Fleece, who overcame their siren call with the equally enthralling playing of Orpheus.

The parallels between the mythological narratives of the Sirens and Steve Hackett’s 25th solo album ‘The Night Siren’, are as fascinating as they are disconcerting. The two rocks, starkly framed on the album cover against the captivating aurora of the northern lights, may well be a nod to Scylla and Charybdis but it is also a clarion call to the need in these present dark times to carefully steer our way between the rocks and the hard places which threaten to engulf us.

Hackett believes that “it seems the world has been plunged into darkness. Wherever you look, extremism and intolerance are dominant, and people are getting fed up with politicians. They are losing faith in the way they behave.” We live in a time of discord, animosity, fighting and bitter divisions. ‘The Night Siren’ is a wake-up call, an unsettling shaking of the foundations on which we stand designed to open our minds, rouse us from our complacency and heed the urgent call to empathy, unity and peace.

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

To that end, much like the Sirens themselves, the album is a hybrid mosaic of songs featuring instruments, collaborators and musicians from around the world. Indeed, the graceful, elegant beauty of T’he Night Siren’ lies precisely in the delightful diversity of its songs as well as the endearing variety of the instruments and sounds heard within each song. The sound of the Indian sitar, the strings of a Peruvian charango, Celtic Uilleann pipes along with the tar and oud originating from the Middle East all contribute to the wonderful montage of musical voices which inspire hope and the desire for peace.

The album openly elevates, celebrates and embraces our unity within diversity. Unlike other recordings on which he has worked, ‘The Night Siren’ took Hackett well over a year to make.  Recording took place in multiple locations, in a variety of different countries, using studios, rooms, wherever they could get the musicians together. “What I wanted to do was show that we can all communicate through the universality of one language – and that is music. It brings us all together.”

Making the album in this way not only adds greater flexibility to the music but also brings people together – and sometimes people who are unnatural allies – to demonstrate in a simple fashion that the multi-cultural approach offers us light in the darkness. Hackett is adamant that the album “represents a bird’s eye view of the world of a musical migrant ignoring borders and celebrating our common ancestry with a unity of spirit”. Bringing together singers and musicians from Israel and Palestine, the USA and Iraq he firmly believes the spirit of cooperation, collegiality and the bonds of friendship which can be formed through music make this his best album yet.

Photo by Tina Korhonen © 2016, all rights reserved.

It is hard to disagree. If the Sirens of war, division, destruction, envy, spite and brutality are seducing the world in which we live, Hackett’s performance on ‘The Night Siren’ is no less akin to the enthralling musicianship of Orpheus leading us through these troubled waters. Music, he believes, “breaches all defences” and there is no doubting that his playing exudes an assured, masterful confidence and authority which is as infectious as it is inspiring.

There is an exhilarating sense of anticipation in hearing the way his guitar work interacts with and responds to the unique and dynamic combinations evolving within each song. Even with all the different styles, rhythms and tempos, he displays a blistering, stand-out musicianship which is wholly organic to, and of a natural piece with, the flow and momentum of the music. It feels right. Each and every time, it feels so right, so perfectly suited to the context of the other instruments and immaculately aligned with the way the song unfolds.

This has always been Hackett’s singular gift; a magical combination of exceptional talent and a nuanced insight which allows him to draw on the momentum present in the natural flow of the music and then rise above it with a passion and brilliance that often defies imagination. At times his playing is simply sublime. The space opens up for the guitar to speak and he fills it with riffs and solos that are beautifully refined, deftly played and charmingly sumptuous. He brings an understanding to the music which is movingly perceptive, poignant and evocative.

When you listen to music which is this articulate, played in ways which carry an unrivalled eloquence and charm by virtue not just of the central figure but also because of the virtuosity of those who surround him, the message he wants to convey cannot but be heard – and heard with a persuasiveness that only music can achieve. Forget about the boundaries, the walls, the frontiers, the borders. ‘The Night Siren’ will shake the ground on which you stand and make you feel the world anew through music because of the coming together of people from across the world who show the way to us all exactly what humanity can achieve when we come together in the name of unity and peace.

Released 24th march 2017

Pre-order ‘The Night Siren’ from Hackett Songs

 

TELEPATHY SHARE NEW VIDEO FOR ‘SMOKE FROM DISTANT FIRES’

UK instrumental titans, Telepathy who will release their new album Tempest on 31st March have shared a new video for their track ‘Smoke from Distant Fires’. Bassist Teddy-James Driscoll comments, ‘We wanted something that would embody the concept of the album and represent the fundamentals of it visually’.

 Recorded, mixed and mastered at London’s Orgone Studios by lauded producer /engineer Jaime Gomez Arellano ( Ghost, Opeth, Paradise Lost, Altar of Plagues, Cathedral ), Tempest follows in the footsteps of Telepathy’s critically acclaimed 2014 debut 12 Areas and is very much a concept record.
Tempest depicts the harrowing journey of a person beset with grief and faced with total isolation after awaking from a great flood. The album guides the listener on a journey through awakening, desolation and finally acceptance.
Further showcasing the band’s no-holds-barred approach to songwriting, Tempest fuses elements of post-metal, sludge, doom and black metal with unorthodox and complex song structures, creating a cohesive and cathartic tapestry of unique instrumental metal. The inclusion of tortured vocals on the album’s centerpiece, Echo of Souls, shows a band un-afraid to travel into uncharted waters, further cementing their reputation as a forward thinking and unique group in today’s experimental metal
scene.
Where its predecessor 12 Areas was by intention a chaotic and furious exploration of sound, Tempest marks a shift towards a more balanced and open sonic pallette. More dynamic, spacious and refined than before, but with an added emphasis on sonic weight, unbridled heaviness, melody and emotional depth.
Telepathy spent the majority of 2016 stunning audiences up and down the UK with their immersive and intense live show, building upon their ever growing following. Highlights included appearances alongside fellow UK metal veterans Raging Speedhorn, Oathbreaker, American post-metal pioneers and labelmates Rosetta and most notably an appearance at the prestigious Desertfest in London.
The band recently completed a five date European tour in September 2016 which saw the band return to Incubate Festival in Tilburg for the second time. Tempest marks a brand new chapter in the band’s career, and with its definitive line-up in place — owing to the addition of new bass player Teddy-James Driscoll — Tempest showcases a ruthlessly punishing, heavy and emotionally demanding take on instrumental music.
The 2×LP comes with an etching on side D, download code and on 180 gr vinyl.
Released 31st March – Golden Antenna Records
Telepathy will tour the UK in April followed by an appearance at Roadburn Festival.
01.04 – MANCHESTER, Rebellion
02.04 – SHEFFIELD, Mulberry Tavern
05.04 – LEEDS, Temple Of Boom
06.04 – LONDON, The Black Heart
07.04 – BIRMINGHAM, Scruffy Murphys
08.04 – BRISTOL, The Louisiana
09.04 – NEWCASTLE, The Cluny
21.04 – TILBURG, Roadburn Festival

Review – Brett William Kull – Open Skies Exploding – by Progradar

Resonant Frequency – Musical instruments make great use of resonance frequencies. The strings of stringed instruments, for instance, vibrate at their resonance frequencies when plucked or struck, and their vibrations against the surrounding air produce sound. For horns and similar instruments, the resonant frequency is actually in the column of air contained in the instrument.

I think we are all tuned into different resonant frequencies when it comes to music and maybe that’s why we like and prefer different types of music.

I’ve been through some ups and downs over the last year and I’ve always turned to certain artists for music that can lift my spirits and that cloud of negativity that may be laying over me. Many a time I’ve found myself walking home after a night with friends (and some alcohol it must be said) when a track has come on and completely changed my mood and taken me to a better place, quite euphoric at times.

It always seems to be the emotive and moving music that brings out this reaction in me, artists like Big Big Train and Abel Ganz have always resonated (see what I did there?) with me in a big way. More recently Scottish indie-folk artists along the likes of Blue Rose CodeFindlay Napier and Norrie McCulloch (review coming soon) have stepped up to the mark and delivered the music that is becoming the soundtrack of my life.

However there has been one new release that I just can’t stop listening to and really has become a must listen album of choice for the good, as well as the bad, times and that’s ‘Open Skies Exploding’ by Brett William Kull.

Brett (William) Kull is a multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, producer, and engineer from the United States. He is best known for being a founding member of the band Echolyn, and long standing member of Grey Eye Glances. Brett is also an adjunct college instructor sharing his love for audio engineering and sound design.

Starting on December 24th 2016, and where timings allowed, Brett started to release two songs a week from his new solo album ‘Open Skies Exploding’. Being a one-man music producing machine he produced, arranged, played, sung, recorded, mixed and mastered the whole album, except where noted on each track.

My review will go through the tracks in the order and number they were released.

The first two tracks on the album to be released were My House Is Loud and Three Walls on 24th December 2016.

As Brett explains in his accompaniment to the release, My House is Loud, includes the talents of my good friend and musical compatriot Chris Buzby. He played my Bostonian Ivers & Pond antique piano as well as my Fender Rhodes Seventy Three (not at the same time). On Drums is Jim Hines. I serendipitously met Jim during some studio session work and immediately knew I wanted to work with him on my own music.”

My House Is Loud is a bitter-sweet song, from the first note of the intro to the catchy guitar hook it is an uplifting and yet melancholy musical journey that just makes you feel like you are in the right place at the right time. Brett has one of those voices that is as smooth as velvet and has no rough edges at all. I find myself singing along and humming that addictive hook all the time. There’s a nostalgic feel to it, looking back at wonderfully happy times and how they have come full circle into the present and those memories are all that remain.

“My house is screaming in answers
My house is screaming in answers
The house is drowning in answers
The house is drowning without you

Just when I needed you most you said goodbye…”

That poignant look at the past is also central to the elegant Three Walls with its dreamlike intro and delicately strummed guitar that gives a sepia tinged look at the past through the wall-scribbled memories of a stranger from the past. The song ebbs and flows in your mind, the music like a gossamer shroud over which Brett’s thoughtful vocal is delivered.

“There’s a map that I stare at with my morning tea
The pushpins tell dusty stories
Marking great spaces between land and sea
But now only the distance between us…”

31st December 2016 saw the release of Dublin Rooftops and Hard Dying Time.

Brett’s notes state, “Dublin Rooftops came about like many of my songs – in the moments between putting the kettle on and hearing the kettle whistle. I turn my phone recorder on and “get lost” in these moments. Like all my “phone recordings” it ended up in a playlist of ideas waiting for attention. Eventually I booked a session with Jim Hines to play drums, not sure what I was going to do. I brought over three ideas to this session; this was one of them.”

Fragmented memories are at the core of Dublin Rooftops, a harder edges and more powerfully emotive track with Brett’s dynamic vocal central to the story. There’s a staccato feel to the drums and acoustic guitar, like an almost agonised cry for the memories that are lost and the plaintive vocal section that follows the chorus really makes you feel for the protagonist. The drums and bass really drive the track on and the guitar adds the required angst. Railing against a broken promise perhaps, it’s the most heartfelt and acerbic track on the album.

“Somewhere there’s a slide show
It wouldn’t play now, the device deceased, device deceased
But in a corner in my mind it plays all the time
Though only in fragmented bursting scenes

There’s a part where the rain came through the radio…”

“Hard Dying Time was initially recorded in the fall of 2012 during a free form recording session. I invited some friends over to Catapult Sound to see what would happen.  When you listen to this song (from the moment the drums come in) you are hearing how the song was played in an inceptive moment by Paul Ramsey on drums, me on electric guitar, Ray Weston on bass, and Jeremy Beck on piano. After the performance I immediately had Jacque Varsalona play acoustic guitar, I wrote the words and melodies, found the voice of the song, added the beginning section, and asked my friend Francis Dunnery to add a solo guitar… all the while not infringing on the initial feel of the song.”

With laid back and ambling intro, Hard Dying Time seems to have all the time in the world. The gentle perambulations of the musicians matched by Brett’s cultured and unhurried vocal. You sit back and relax and let the music wash over you. There’s an expansive feel to this song, in my mind I see the vastness of sun-baked prairies and a horizon that seems to be a million miles away. A song for untold millennia, for lives that seem to go on eternally, unreal and almost alien. Francis Dunnery’s solo seems to come from the very bowels of the earth yet it is as measured and nonchalant as the rest of this unruffled song.

“We’d light the rails and change the chase
We burned the house to roman glass
And shake the walls to wake the wolf
Ruminate remove the past
Into piles of hard dying time…”

Railroad Self and Punch of The Day first saw the light of day on 7th January 2017.

Railroad Self was a lingering chord progression, left over from my Last of the Curlews project. Recently I felt the need to throw it back into the coliseum of combat to finish it off. One way to enable spontaneity is to simply force yourself into a position where you need to react without planning. My friend Kevin Wiggins and I occasionally do this with great success in the realm of writing songs. We find meaning in this through our intent. Whenever we hang out, music appears where music was not. Kevin played drums to my acoustic guitar; the song happened. ‘Nuff said.”

A really jazzy song with an upbeat vibe Railroad Self could be allegorical with all sorts of hidden meanings in the lyrics. Is it exhorting you to be yourself and not pander to other people’s thoughts of who you should be? It’s a great little song with Brett’s smooth vocals and the funky drums and dancing guitar, it may be introspective in meaning but it is certainly very extrovert in delivery and it’s one of my favourites on the album.

“See how she goes away
See how she’s gone away
She’s a lonely sound and gone gone gone…”

Punch of The Day was written into existence with the help of Jeremy Beck then Francis Dunnery, (aka Big Des). The construction of this song is a bit longer than some of the other songs… but sometimes you have to work for it, or at least inject that which is not normally used.  Thinking about it, the lethal combination of Beck and Big Des has contributed to some of my personal favorites on this new album.”

One of the tracks I go back to most frequently and one that is full of emotion, Punch of The Day is a wonderfully affectionate and heartwarming song with one of the most memorable guitar hooks in it. A song of memorial it would seem, a heartfelt eulogy to a loved one perhaps, Brett gives another striking vocal performance of elegance and warmth and the music just adds layers and layers of pathos and sentiment to deliver a track that makes my heart bleed and the fragile beauty within, the solo is just a thing of wonder.

“Ride blind in your town tonight
To lean against some tide
Removing pieces of our love and longing
It feels so good and keeps you moving
Beyond the punch of the day…”

Song For Summer and Like Fading Stars – released 29th January 2017.

Song for Summer features Big Des once again on drums. Des crystallized the song for me by playing the big tom-tom groove. It immediately gave the song the rhythmic energy I was hoping for.  It is perfect! Leo Koperdraat from Fractal Mirror was kind enough to add his wonderful baritone voice for some backing vocal color.”

Song For Summer has a real singer/songwriter vibe to it, akin to Don Henley post Eagles. A song from the American heartlands about somebody escaping from a relationship but are they really escaping and are they really free? That’s what it seems to speak of to me. A repetitive rhythm from the drums is the core of the track. Brett gives a sultry vocal performance and the guitars occasionally break in to dominate proceedings for a while as the rest of the song treads water momentarily. An echoing beat holds sway as the story unfolds before you, it’s a story that will end but will it end well? Does it ever…?

“She wants to buy a world of wonder
She wants to write a song for summer
She gets to me cause I know that summer too
She gets to me cause I know that summer

I never wanted to be lovers that would call it an end…”

Like Fading Stars, features Jim Hines playing a beautifully understated groove for my song. I used my very old piano with a damper on the strings to lull the listener into the quietness of the song opening. These songs are deep and full of emotional triggers for me and I hope you can find your own meaning within them. I know I cried many times as these lines materialized into melodies. Maybe you’ll get something out of them as well.”

An almost carnival-like piano note opens Like Fading Stars, a quiet echo almost unheard in the background. Brett has a stillness and tranquility to his voice, there’s a fragile grace to every note of this dignified and graceful track. Innocence exudes from all corners, a love story that takes place up in the heavens, in the stars. I take my own personal meaning from this song, to me it is inspirational and thought-provoking and reminds me of my own journey of self-discovery.

“Me here, and you there, same fading stars
Somewhere, we were somewhere
Like same fading stars
Oh, you were somewhere like fading stars
Somehow, we were shining
Like fading stars…”

The last track, Light of Things, was released on 5th February 2017.

“The last track for this series – by unplanned motivation – is called Light of Things. It’s a good one folks. I hope you agree. The 1-2 punch of Jeremy Beck and Big Des elevated the recording you hear. Jeremy plays the perfect piano accompaniment. He added a truly unique color to this song with his piano work, as well as some powerful backing vocals that are transparent and sublime. There is nothing overwrought in this recording. It is simple and fitting for my words and melody.  I hope you find something in them; I know I have.”

A cultured and sophisticated song that just oozes warmth and bonhomie Light of Things wears its heart on its sleeve. A simple but evocative vocal and piano open the track before the drums join in and take it to another level. Brett’s voice takes the bittersweet, wistful lyrics and just lifts them to another level, things lost that will never be forgotten, looking back but not in any negative way. You get lost in this seeming personal journey as this remarkable musician opens his heart and soul to the gathered crowd. This elegantly subdued song leaves a mark on you that will never fade such is its impact.

“Now close as continents are away
The devil called at the end of your stay
As our burning time crashed to the sea
We were love that died in the air
From an arrow of secrets that you shared
Then the distance came in…”

A charming, captivating musical journey that will lead everybody on a different path ‘Open Skies Exploding’ is songwriting at its best. Uncomplicated and effortless, Brett Kull has that innate skill that the best musicians possess, the ability to make the listener forget themselves and be completely immersed in the spellbinding music that he creates. The man is a bloody genius, there’s no other word for it!

Released 24th December 2016 through 5th February 2017.

Buy ‘Open Skies Exploding’ from bandcamp