Victor Lee was born in South Korea where he spent his childhood there. He moved to the US in his late teens and has been living there since. He started on classical piano and has always had a piano at home since he was too small to crawl up the chair, Victor then started playing guitar when he was 14.
This talented musician wrote his first ever original composition back in 2013, called “Absence”, to comfort a friend who had lost her dog at the time. Even though he felt the quality itself wasn’t quite there, Victor quickly fell in love with the process and the purpose that songs bring as it allowed him to express things that he couldn’t with words.
There followed his first official track “Second Chance” on Dec 6, 2016 with a very talented Norwegian drummer named Andreas Sjøen who then played on several more tracks on Victor’s debut album “Strangely Familiar” released in 2018.
On Sep 17, 2019 he released a single “Letter” which was a partnership with a renowned Instagram Music community called “Pickup Music” as a part of their educational program “Songsquad”
Victor Lee’s new single “Harbor City”, featuring Henrik Linder on bass and Andreas Sjøen on drums was released on January 10th, 2020. Victor plays electric and acoustic guitars, keyboards and produced and mixed the song which was mastered by Jeremy Krull.
A marvelously upbeat track of prog/rock/jazz fusion, this song is seriously uplifting with fantastic keyboard runs and some mind blowing guitar solos. It flies along at a serious rate of notes but the musicianship is tight as a drum.
For five minutes you can forget real life and all its trials and tribulations and just immerse yourself in this inspiring musical concoction.
“My Arrival began life when three souls wandered into a single room with the intention to write music from a different perspective than they had done so before: shorter and accessible songs, without losing any of their intended intensity and progressive roots.
Their new album “Satur9 & Indigo” is intricate but elegant in sound. The music is made possible by the gentle weave of synths and guitars atop steady bass and drums, with vocals telling us the melancholic story of a man with a bleeding heart on a dying planet, desperate to find a new home.”
I do love a good press release and this one is no exception. Being a big fan of Sylvium, when Ben van Gastel (guitars & key) contacted me about this new project, I was very interested to hear what they had come up with.
Ben formed My Arrival along with Richard de Geest (vocals) and Fred Boks (bass, drums, keys), the music is closely related to Sylvium but with more relaxed, shorter tracks and is a bit more oriented to Art Rock, instead of prog.
Musically inspired by a changing world, the music was written with the intention to tell the story of a departure and a search for a new home.
Ben van Gastel: “All over the world people are looking for a safe home, not only because of war or climate change. Loved ones are left behind, hoping they will meet again soon, when they have found their new home. Richard de Geest has the gift of a singer songwriter.
He wrote the lyrics like a true poet! He takes you on this search for a new home with his voice, leaving no one untouched. Fred Boks is well known from Sylvium’s first EP release “Purified”. This time he has surpassed himself.
Being responsible for the mix and mastering, every sound is carefully balanced by Fred, sometimes twice or more! It was this finishing touch to take the music to another dimension.”
There is almost a melancholy feel to the album but it is overlaid by lush musical passages and a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. The musicianship is outstanding and the quality of songwriting draws the listener into this immersive and deeply engaging musical experience.
There is substance to the music, a real primal, deliberate and thoughtful feel and Richard’s warm and substantive vocal delivery underpins and overlays everything like calming influence.
The album is bookended by a sci-fi feeling intro and outro and then the music flows through some mightily impressive songs, Gone with it’s highly emotive touch and the Pop/Prog of the enchanting Pale White Dot accompany you gently into the rest of this impressive album.
Things get more meaningful with the dignified and languid brilliance of Strange Machine and the sombre, forlorn feeling Saturn & Indigo. There’s an eruption of intensity on the powerful Null Echo which fades into the stark beauty of Come Undone, these superb musicians just keep on delivering sublime song after song.
You want a rather well crafted instrumental that ramps up the tension a jot? Well here’s Failure of a Grand Design to give you exactly that with its haunting and apprehensive atmosphere. Full Dark no Stars is a compelling three minutes of emotive vocals and stirring music and Close Your Eyes is as wistful a piece of music you could ever hope for but one that leaves a plaintive and reflective feeling in the pit of your stomach.
The album will be released on the band’s own label, Mey Productions, giving them further opportunity to learn, to grow and to be inspired, thanks to their audience. That’s all that My Arrival want to do – bring musicians together, make music with them, inspire their audience and let them discover their world and, with ‘Satur9 & Indigo’, they have made a hugely impressive and influential start.
John Holden’s‘Rise and Fall’ has been in my possession for a while now and I was very gratified to be given access to this remarkable album some three months prior to its official release. I was also very pleased that I had been thanked in the album credits, that having been an ambition of mine for quite some time.
‘Rise and Fall’ is the second album from John Holden and features substantial input and assistance from several core musicians including Joe Payne, Oliver Day and Oliver Wakeman, Sally Minnear, Jean Pageau and Michel St Pere from Mystery, not forgetting the always remarkably impressive Peter Jones. If, like me, you enjoyed John’s debut release ‘Capture Light’ (still available from John via Bandcamp) then I’m sure you will love this one too.
The album consists of just seven pieces, they are, however, lengthy and
well written. It is also expertly recorded and produced by John himself while the
whole album was mastered by Robin Armstrong of Cosmograf fame.
The guest list of collaborators is impressive with each bringing their
own skills to bear. Especially worthy of note are the keyboard skills and
musical arrangements of Vikram Shankar, a
musician who is not very widely known yet. The album is a great place to
discover him for yourself, he certainly looks to be a musician with a bright
future awaiting him.
As a side note, the packaging on this release is again impeccable, as are
the extensive sleeve notes in the booklet which give a deeper insight into each
of these tracks.
So, without further ado, let’s dive right on in then shall we…
The opening track, Leap of Faith, features Peter Jones on vocals, recorder and whistles, in fact Peter
bookends the album with a further performance on the last track Ancestors and Satellites with both
tracks sharing a recurrent musical passage, albeit it in a different key.
Leap of Faith concerns
itself with the antics of Eilmer, A
Benedictine monk who lived at Malmesbury Abbey in the 11th century
and one who was fascinated by the flight of the birds and bats that lived around
the priory He had it in his mind to fly like they did so attempted (like Daedalus, the Father of Icarus of Greek
mythology fame) to fly using wings he had made attached to his back and arms. You
can read the story in the song lyrics but I can say that gravity prevailed! This
piece is very moving and very atmospheric with Peter Jones really
bringing the tale to life in his own inimitable way.
This is a fantastic opener that sets you up for all that follows, which, in this instance, is the superb Rise and Fall voiced by Jean Pageau of Mystery. This talented vocalist gives a very emotionally raw vocal delivery that makes you feel his anguish as he sings of the relationship that one has with both their addictions and the person they care about, who also suffers the brunt of this addiction. This is a very honest song and another classy piece of work.
The next track, The Golden Thread, I consider
a truly beautiful song, one that has extra depths to it as it is a requiem
written by John’s wife Elizabeth who is a cancer survivor. She wrote this to
express her deep love for John and also so that, if she were not around, the
song and her memory would live on as a musical legacy of her life and struggle.
This piece of music is very gentle with an almost classical tone to it and is
sung by the remarkable talents of John Payne and Lauren Nolan as a duet, not being written as such initially but
Lauren’s voice worked so well with Joe’s that adaptations were made to make it work
in this way. The sentiments that this song espouses and expresses are both very
warm, loving and deeply profound indeed with Oliver Wakeman and Vikram Shankar playing on the song to magnificent effect.
The music reaches a crescendo before fading away to the harder edged Dark Arts on which Billy Sherwood provides a bass part in the style of the late great Chris Squire, playing the sort of bass runs the great man would have done whilst alive. The track also features a spoken excerpt of Francis Urquhart of House of Cards fame, setting the tone for a politically charged song about the abuse of power by those in charge. Once again Joe Payne vocalises with real passion and power to deliver a truly remarkable track along with more fine keyboards from Oliver Wakeman. I heard this song in an unmixed state six months ago and was suitably impressed then, and still am, by its magnificent, powerful delivery and content that is right on point.
The next track is Hereticwhich speaks of how ISIS destroyed lots of priceless artefacts in Palmyra
in Iraq after killing the 82 year old custodian Khaled Al-Assad at the
site and smashing 3000 year old plus pieces in a show of cultural terrorism. He
was beheaded in front of his family and his body was then hung in the central
square. Again, whilst a dark song, there is hope that the displaced peoples
will one day return and, as John says, “Empires rise and fall, ideologies
are replaced but still the healing power of love endures.”Sally Minnear’s vocals are excellent on this too as she sings in
tandem with Joe Payne.
After the Storm is about a
journey one woman takes and utilises the weather outside as a metaphor for
storms in her life and the ultimate realisation that, eventually, the storms
both outside and inside her will pass leaving a calmer and clearer path ahead.
This is mostly an acoustic piece and that adds a good contrast for the album
with some fine playing from Oliver Day.
The final song, Ancestors and Satellites, returns
to the opening section of Leap of Faith as Eilmer
saw Haley’s comet twice in his lifetime with John using this comet theme again
to show how little we’ve learnt in the days gone past. This song has vocal
contributions from Peter Jones, Joe Payne, Sally Minnear and Lauren Nolan but mainly its Peter who sings this so delicately
and with real warmth and all set to suitably atmospheric keyboards from John,
and Vikram Shankar.
The song talks about cave paintings over 40,000 years ago and also of the Apollo mission that landed on the moon in July 1969 and of the footprints they left there for ever. There follows an ensemble of synthesizers playing a multi tracked passage to great effect and the massed vocals singing the chorus once again before the comet melody returns once again to bring the song towards its impressive finale. Another thing of note is the fantastic and powerful drum work from Nick D’Virgilio. On this track and throughout most of the album Nick adds his magic and his drive to power these pieces along in a most delightful and satisfying manner.
The vocals are impassioned and strong and Michael St Pere’s epic
guitar line is heard, along with a bank of synths, sounding very epic and majestic
to bring this fantastic album to a fine conclusion.
To think that this is only the work of John, Elizabeth and a few select friends funded from the sales of his earlier album and without and label support is remarkable. It shows John Holden to be a man with both vision and a purpose. I for one applaud him hugely for his fine efforts on this most excellent album. This is going to be one of the albums of the year for those who take notice.
What do you get if you cross progressive rock artists Mystery and The Neal Morse Band with 80’s American rock legends REO Speedwagon ? It’s not as daft a question as it sounds, honest, just stay with me here…
Formed in Malta in the 1990’s by Trevor Tabone and now hailing from Prague after disbanding in 1999 before being reformed in 2008, Different Light follow up the exceeding well received album, 2016’s ‘The Burden of Paradise’ with the first part of a two part concept, ‘Binary Suns (Part 1)’ in early 2020.
It’s evident from the first notes of Amphibians that we have something special on our hands here, a superbly crafted track with a wonderful introduction of keyboards, guitar and drums that ramps up the anticipation smoothly in that well recognised overture style. It does remind me of Transatlantic and The Neal Morse Band but when Trevor Tabone’s vocals take over centre stage I cannot help but be drawn to a comparison with Kevin Cronin and his lead vocals for the REO Speedwagon track Keep On Loving You, it is powerful and distinctive and, along with the great vocal harmonies, really adds to what is already a superb song. Faith picks up where the previous track finishes and add a more soft rock feel to the music with those harmonious vocals and the excellent keyboard work giving it a seriously uplifting feel. Once again, the fantastic vocal harmonies give real gloss and class and a pure 80’s edge, joyful and inspiring.
Prog epics are ten a penny nowadays but when done well they are still music to my ears and the twenty-one minute plus intrigue of Spectres And Permanent Apparitions certainly fits in the latter category. A mighty length it may be but it breezes by and never outstays its welcome, the musicianship and elegant vocal echoing Canadian proggers Mystery at their finest to my ears. The way the instruments work perfectly together and allow those expressive vocals to be out front and centre is a lesson to anyone. Musical stroytelling of a high calibre is on show here and you find yourself totally immersed and drawn along on this expansive journey, very clever songwriting indeed!
There’s a darker edge to The Answer, a feeling of foreboding delivered by the more direct vocals and superb guitar riff. A song that has a hints or Americana and pure theatre running throughout. Magnificent and theatrical, Two Faces marches into view, part ballad and part rock opera but utterly bewitching and demanding in equal measure. It’s that piano driving things along that combines with the superb vocals to give that feel of almost a Queen and REO Speedwagon collaboration and I just love it.
This impressive album closes with the powerful rhythm of On The Borderline and what a closer it is, drums, bass, keyboards and guitar all work in perfect unison to give an exhilarating opening to this ten minutes of progressive rock brilliance. A compelling song replete with dynamism, charisma and intelligence. Here Trevor’s vocal takes on a thoughtful and measured tone, delivering the lyrics in a way that mesmerises the listener and draws them in even more and leaves you humming the refrain long after the track and album have come to a close.
I know we are only in February but I wouldn’t be surprised if I was still playing this beast of an album and waxing lyrical about it at the end of the year. A musical creation that is utterly fulfilling in so many ways and one that satisfies, captivates and entertains on so many levels. I cannot recommend this highly enough for music fans of any genre, it will leave the biggest and longest lasting smile on your face that you have ever, ever had, it truly is that good!
Released 17th January 2020 (digital), 8th February 2020 (CD).
Though Moonshot may not have reached the commercial and creative peaks of celebrated Progressive peers such as Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes and King Crimson, they were arguably one of the best of the chasing pack and fully deserve to be named alongside the likes of Gentle Giant, Camel, Greenslade, The Yorkshire Parkin Experiment, BJH, Gryphon, PFM, Prawn, Ange and others ‘Worlds Of Yesterday‘ is a fine testament to a fine band.
From the Crimson-esque grandeur of The Sweetest Bitter Pill to the straightforward beauty of Before That Before, via the warped creativity of Lost In The Ghost Light and the engaging Pop ofStupid Things That Mean The World, this new compilation contains the band’s strongest work from 1971-1992.
I’ll let Tim Bowness give you his personal perspective on legendary Warrington Proggers Moonshot:
“My 2017 release Lost In The Ghost Light was a homage to the classic Rock album era. The album revolved around my interpretation of the contemporary musings of Moonshot leader Jeff Harrison, though the events in the songs took place between 1967 and 2017. During this period, Rock music had gone from a revolutionary force that defined the zeitgeist to the exact opposite (a safe and nostalgic reminder of a better time). Jeff’s career was of interest to me because he came from my home town and was born on the same date as me in exactly the same place (Victoria Park Maternity Home in Warrington as I’m sure you’re eager to know). It was 16 years earlier, but how could I not be curious?
In the 1970s and 1980s, there were no local musicians of note from the area, so (in both a good and a bad way) Jeff became something of a home town legend regularly played by DJs such as The Longford Lover.
On a personal level, I was interested in how Jeff and Moonshot had been passionately principled for its first 10 years, but seemed a little exhausted and compromised from that point on. Where did the inspiration / drive go? How was all relevance and credibility lost? Why did Jeff make the career choices he did?
Although some critics still rate the band’s early albums (as do I), it’s fair to say that Moonshot’s reputation was sullied by years of playing ‘golden oldies’ to diminishing audiences. Jeff’s 1980s penchant for wearing leopard skin outfits (a la Rod) and his dismissive remarks about contemporary music (post Punk) also had an impact on his critical standing.
In recent years, Jeff’s vocal aversion to downloading and streaming came across as bitter rather than insightful (he sometimes made a good point, but there was no moderation in the way he expressed his views). His latter-day obsessions with President Putin t-shirts and the falling standards of rice pudding production were a little (endearingly?) odd by any standards.”
I confess to having never heard of Moonshot until bass player David K. Jones got in touch about me reviewing this second compilation of material and I’m glad he did, their idiosyncratic music really piqued my interest and I confess to now becoming something of a fan.
The brilliant album opener Moonshot Manchild with it’s edgy, almost reggae rhythm and swirling keyboards is a wonderful piece of music, the vocals driving the storytelling along at a fair lick. The modern and up-to-date feel continues with Stupid Things That Mean The World with a powerful and stripped back bass line giving strong impetus and more of the excellent keyboards acting like the conductor to the vocals that have more than a hint of a certain Phil Collins to them and, let’s face it, that’s not a bad thing is it?.
This band may have their roots in the late 1960’s but the music is definitely of this century. The dreamlike and dramatic wonder of Worlds of Yesterday is an absolute delight to behold with it’s cultured vocal and intricate keyboards, an absolutely wonderful piece of music that shimmers and glows giving joy to the heart and soul. Lost in the Ghostlight is all mystery and cloak and dagger, an edgy and dark song that leaves you on edge as it befuddles your senses in an arbitrary manner.
This contorted originality continues with the slow burning brilliance of Nowhere Good to Go as it builds the tension to almost unbearable levels, the brooding keyboards intensifying in the background adding a hard edge to the vocals, a really clever piece of music. Moonshot show their storytelling originality once again on the utterly mesmerising The Great Electric Teenage Dream, eight minutes of spellbinding musical excellence. A hushed opening and atmospheric vocals play over lush keyboards. There’s a wonderful sparsity that proves beyond doubt that less is very often more. the wistful tone to the voice and the elegant piano add a nostalgic, melancholy tone and the delicately strummed guitar adds contemplation to create something sublime.
A thoughtful and beautiful addition to this compilation, Before That Before is a delight that touches you with its simple grace and heartbreaking mournfulness that leads up to the classic splendour and unashamed pomp of The Sweetest Bitter Pill. Complex and grandiose in scope, this is intelligently crafted music that accompanies the listener on this fascinatingly baroque journey, transfixed and transformed as it comes to a close.
The final track on the album is the towering and imposing Distant Summers, a wall of dynamic sound that washes over you with its unrelenting and almost primeval urge, a towering close to a great compilation of fantastic songs…
…did I say final? If you get the CD then you, lucky listener, get two bonus tracks. The first bonus Track is an enchanting Moonshot version of the Tim Bowness track You’ll Be The Silence and the second, Shadows, is a staggeringly good instrumental that includes themes from the songs on the album along with a new piano theme. To quote David K. Jones:
“We were thinking of Los Endos by Genesis!!!”
So, how to sum up this rather stunning compilation? ‘Worlds of Yesterday’ is, to me, like one of those great lost albums that resurfaces after decades in someone’s attic. I’d never heard of Moonshot before this but, boy, do I wish I had! Brilliantly crafted and delivered songs that feel bang up-to-date and resonate on every level. Believe me, this album should be on everybody’s wish list, it really is that good!
Released 17th January 2020 on Plane Groovy Records.
Order both the vinyl and CD version from Burning Shed here:
Following the successful studio album ‘Liquid’ and the magical live CD/DVD at Loreley recorded in the pouring rain, Blind Ego are back with a new album. And boy is there a new storm headed your way.
A solo project of RPWL guitarist Kalle Wallner, I was very impressed with the first album where Kalle let his harder side loose on some classy hard and melodic rock tracks. This new album turns the knob up to the mythical eleven in style.
The album’s title ‘Preaching to the Choir’ has different meanings, on different levels. When applied to the band Kalle Wallner says, “It’s about blind understanding. When you get the right people on board, there is no need for lengthy explanations. You just hit the recording button. And when you then give the right musicians the right music … that’s when they help you take it to the next level.” He goes on to say, “No need to convince anybody, no discussions. And no compromises are necessary. You just pump it out.”
When it comes to writing the music for Blind Ego‘Preaching to the Choir’ takes on a different meaning. “A lot of bands stick to their comfort zone, giving their fans exactly what they’ve come to expect. The album’s title is a reminder to explore and trust my own development and not be afraid to challenge the fans.”
With Kalle’s thunderous and yet expressive guitars the core of every track, the album opens with some gusto on Massive and the fantastic title track. A plethora of hard-edged riffs combine with the powerhouse drumming of Michael Christoph to give a monumental and elemental sound, a real hit to the solar plexus and the funky chorus just grabs you from the get-go making Preaching To The Choir one of the best hard rock tracks I’ve heard in quite a while!
Burning Alive gives a more melodic bent to proceedings and brings the excellent rock vocals of Scott Balaban to the fore. A pulsating and driving song with another killer chorus, I’m really getting into this finely crafted release. Things take a darker, funkier course on the mesmeric Line In The Sand with it’s grungy riff and harsher vocals. There’s real variety on show here and very impressive musical and songwriting ability on every track.
Dark Paradise, with its sense of melancholy and contemplation, takes the rock ballad and elevates it to a higher plane with some elegant guitar work and delicate bass and subdued drums which erupt, along with Scott’s powerful vocal, on the wonderful chorus. Polished hard rock returns with the invigorating and fast paced In Exile, a lesson in how to do an accessible rock track that doesn’t have to be obviously commercial.
Blind Ego are a rock band with all guns blazing, yet grown-up enough to take their finger off the trigger at just the right moments. There is no loud without silent, no hard without soft and this is all evident on the excellent Heading For The Stars with its combination of the subdued and the outspoken, one of my favourite tracks on the album. The anthemic, in your face and chest pounding Broken Land invokes The Scorpions to me. A straightforward, no-nonsense hard rock track that wears its heart on its sleeve and does so with pride.
A slow burning, thoughtful opening sees album closer The Pulse almost creep up on you but it is an intense, powerful and profound song that becomes almost all-encompassing and engrossing through its eight minutes plus running time. The music and lyrics ebb and flow with riveting skill, the piercing guitar solo a particular highlight.
‘Preaching To The Choir’ is a powerful statement of intent from this stellar musician and is a wonderfully crafted release. Hard rock of the highest calibre performed by musicians at the height of their game and working in perfect union. The bar just got raised even higher…
“There’s always room for a story that can transport people to another place.”
Hibernal is a sci-fi post-rock project created by Brisbane native and author Mark R. Healy where, along with long term musical partner in crime Rowan Salt, Mark interweaves sci-fi stories with instrumental music to tell a compelling storyline that unfolds throughout the course of the album. The aim is to take the listener on an atmospheric, immersive and thought-provoking journey with every production.
I have become an avid fan of Mark’s work and it is always an occasion filled with great anticipation when a new Hibernal album is announced.
‘Beyond’ is the fifth release from this accomplished musician and storyteller and, in my opinion, is his best release yet.
“It was meant to be a routine mission. A crew of two sent to investigate an anomaly in the Rigel system at the foot of Orion.”
Using the excellent voice talents of long time collaborators Scott Gentle and Faleena Hopkins, we are told a twisting tale of two people who pass through a void in space and find a sinister and mind blowing world on the other side.
I am not going to spoil the story by writing an in depth review of the album but, suffice to say, it is one of Mark’s most engrossing and spine-tingling tales yet..
“As I watch, a pale blue star seems to throb and grow larger. With each pulse, shafts of azure light illuminate around it like the strands of a spider’s web. I can’t decide if it’s beautiful or terrifying. Then the moment passes, and the murk drifts overhead, obscuring my view.”
Hibernal albums are amazing cinematic soundscapes that have you on the edge of your seat, you feel invested in the characters and your heart is in your mouth waiting to hear what is going to happen next, the music adding an incredibly detailed and suspenseful accompaniment to the absorbing and compelling narrative.
I’d liken Mark’s work to an audiobook with musical backing, these are works that need to be listened to in one sitting, from beginning to end. I played ‘Beyond’ in full for the first time on one of my daily runs and soon found myself totally immersed in the story and itching to find out what was going to happen with Blake and Aven next, with music like this it truly doesn’t get much better than that.
“You can’t leave me. We’re in this together, Blake. Right to the end.”
‘Beyond’ is another tour de force from the undoubted master of cinematic storytelling. It is an enthralling and utterly gripping piece of work that holds your attention from its fascinating start, through its intriguing plot and right until the chilling end.
Mark R. Healy, my friend, you have done it again and this time it is your very best release yet!
We have spoken a lot recently about great albums from the last decade and I announced that Progradar’s choice was Big Big Train’s English Electric – Full Power but there was also an album that was a very, very close runner up and I still love it to this day.
I have a very close emotional connection to the album through the band and they have become great friends of mine. So here is my review of Able Ganz’s incredible self-titled release from 2014, kindly reproduced with the permission of Lady Obscure Music Magazine where it was first published.
When I first started to formulate this review my intention was to base it around the announcement of the so called ‘new’ Pink Floyd album and how we should really be encouraging new music and not collections of old material left metaphorically laying around on the studio floor, given a new coat of looking at and then released to the expectant public, no matter how honourable the intentions.
Instead I am going to concentrate on the music on this new
album and how it has totally enraptured me and reinvigorated my sometimes jaded
view of the music industry in these modern times. I have often talked about how
music has made my more complete, how it has helped me through difficult
situations and, sometimes, how it can just be so damn good and life affirming.
You should all know by know how I view mainstream chart
music with more than a modicum of displeasure. Corporate crap to appease the
masses and increase the bank balances of the music executives with no
creativity or soul in any way, shape or form. Then, occasionally unexpectedly,
an absolute gem of an album that contains the artist’s heart and soul will come
along, one that will have taken a long time to come to fruition.
Music like this is what gets me out of bed in a morning, music
that I have to wax lyrical about and spread the word to as many people as
possible. To this reviewer, the music industry, at the sharp end, has lost its
soul and its understanding that it is there for people to enjoy and to make
these people’s lives a better place to be. Now it is just a vast, money making
machine, bloated and pointless. It is these smaller, independent artists and
labels that hold the true meaning and the future of the music industry.
I have been aware of the Scottish band Abel Ganz for quite a while and heard the odd track that has quite
impressed me. However, it is this latest release, self-titled, that has really
caught my attention.
First, a quick catch up.
After a very lengthy
hiatus Abel Ganz re-emerged in 2006
with the release ‘Back from the Zone’ – a compilation of 1980s material plus
two, new recordings. Original members Hew
Montgomery and Hugh Carter were
joined on this release by long-time collaborator and drummer Denis Smith.
A brand new album ‘Shooting
Albatross’quickly followed in 2008 on the band’s own, newly
created record label and was very well received internationally. New, full time
members Davie Mitchell (lead guitar),
Mick Macfarlane (lead vocals,
guitar), and Stevie Donnelly (bass)
came on board to complete this album and flesh out the band’s reinvigorated
line up with Denis Smith taking on
major recording and production duties for the band as well as filling the drum
After two years of gigging and promoting ‘Shooting Albatross’the band
began making preparations to record their next album. Shortly after work began,
Hew Montgomery made the decision
that the time had come for him to pursue solo interests and so bowed out. He
was replaced by virtuoso Jack Webb (keyboards)
who had contributed to ‘Shooting Albatross’as a session musician. Nine months later as recording had only just
begun in earnest Hugh Carter also
retired from the band for geographical reasons.
With work on new album freshly started the decision was made
to carry on write and record new album with the blessing and encouragement of
Montgomery and Carter. With all parts of the album virtually completed and
mixing sessions begun the role of keyboards player changed hands once again
with new full time member Stephen
Lightbody joining the band.
Entitled simply ‘Abel Ganz’ the new album makes a deliberate
effort to take in new influences and mix them with the old. A genuine attempt
has been made to try new things and explore potential new directions. In short
– to try and ‘progress’.
Many guest musicians appear on the new album but the band are particularly proud and excited to have worked with the legendary Jerry Donahue and Malcolm Jones [of Scottish folk-rock band Runrig] on the track ‘Thank you’.
Delusions of Grandeur
is a delightful introductory piece to the album with oboe, violins and
violas accompanying the piano to almost freshen your musical palate ready for
the main event. What follows next, the five-part Obsolescence is as good a piece of music as I’ve heard all year.
Starting with Part i Sunrise, which
is truly captivating, it has an ethereal mix of acoustic guitar, piano,
recorder and effortlessly harmonised vocals, almost religious in its delivery.
It gently segues into Pt ii Evening which
increases the tempo but retains the innocent wonderment of what has gone
before. There is a gentle folk edge to the song and it just fills me with an
effortless flow of good feeling, truly enchanting, the steel guitar being a
touch of genius. A feeling of urgency pervades all as Pt iii Close Your Eyes begins. This part of the piece has more of a
mainstream progressive style to it, bass heavy with clever drumbeats. The
delectable swathes and swirling drops of Hammond organ are an added nod to the
seventies prog stalwarts. What is becoming increasingly clear is the quality of
Macfarlane’s vocals. He truly has an impressive voice. The different time
changes and signatures lead you on a musical journey that entertains at every
turn. A flute that flitters around like a dancing bird is the entrancing
introduction to Pt iv The Dream. It
has a slow and measured rhythm that entices you into its musical web and holds
you transfixed. You are treated to an aural cornucopia of flutes, guitars,
tubular bells, double bass and church organ that builds up to an almighty
conclusion to this amazing musical delight, Pt v Dawn. This instrumental finale has a depth of feeling that
strikes into your psychological core to an emotional extent. The soaring guitar
bleeds empathy as it reaches heights of feeling and fervour, a solo full of
passion and ecstasy.
Take a moment to get your breath back after that musical
extravaganza and then let the graceful and divine calm of Spring wash over you in a cathartic fashion. On this track
Macfarlane shows his prowess with the acoustic guitar. The low hum of crickets
calling is accompanied by a mellow acoustic guitar and a great brass section on
Recuerdos. A soft vocal full of
emotion adds a serious note to this amiable song. It is as you get this far
into the album you realise the number of differing musical styles that the band
can intertwine with aplomb. It doesn’t detract from any enjoyment of the album.
In fact it just adds another layer of delight to it. Heartland begins with the muted sound of children playing before a
very oriental sounding note emanates from the keyboard. Vocals on this song are
provided by Joy Dunlop and the band
takes another ninety degree musical turn as keyboards and programmed percussion
deliver a sound not unlike an ambient dance track. It is tranquil, calming and
subdued despite coming straight out of left field. There is a smidgeon of
Celtic folk song to it but you are never quite able to grasp it fully as it
lies just out of earshot. It is different and intriguing, yet very good.
End of Rain is another instrumental track that is like a tropical storm envisioned musically. It is full of highs and lows, powerful yet, sometimes, a calming influence. It is due to the bands undeniable skill that it stops short of just being an ambient background track yet, for this listener at least, it is the weakest track on the album. Maybe an experiment with a different musical direction that wasn’t entirely required. Just to prove they really do know how to mix several unlikely musical styles and make them work Abel Ganz deliver Country with aplomb on Thank You. I think this is a brilliant song and I don’t even like Country! It delivers its heart warming message in several different languages yet never loses focus or direction. The vocals are full of feeling and affection and the accordion and steel guitar add a layer of gloss to the whole track. It is captivating, full of charm and leaves a feeling of wellbeing and content wherever it goes. Mick Macfarlane takes the lead with the acoustic guitar once more on the instrumental A Portion of Noodles. Another dip into the well of folk influenced music, it dances across your aural receptors with a featherlight footprint. Ghostlike and almost intangible, it is beguiling and mesmerising.
Fourteen minutes of musical delectation now follows in the
form of Unconditional. Initially
sounding as if it comes from the American heartland and the pen of Springsteen
or the combined talents of The Eagles, it delves deeper into our collective
musical knowledge to deliver on all counts. You don’t have to wait too long
before some free form jazz is let off the leash. Muted trumpet played with
alacrity and a lilting piano note take the lead and you soon feel you are in a
smoky jazz lounge in New Orleans drinking bourbon and feeling at one with the
music. The slightly discordant note of the keyboards that follows takes you
down a more experimental route whilst keeping that jazz/fusion edge. The whole
song encourages you to sit down and unwind, let the sounds wash over you and
take you away from the stress of everyday life. Throw in some flashes of
scorching guitar that Joe Satriani would be proud of and things are just about
perfect. Hints of blues, jazz and progressive rock infuse to create something
quite exceptional on this song, it is another musical delight that deserves
wider recognition. The song comes around full circle to smoothly meet up again
with the classy feel of the introduction and you know you’ve just heard
something special. To close out the album you are treated to The Drowning. A luscious brass
arrangement lends added gravitas to Macfarlane’s husky and soulful vocal. It
has a wistful, if not downright melancholic feel to it but is extremely charming
in its own way. The flugelhorn solo is a thing of dignity and style and adds to
the aura of longing and loss.
I have just listened to a musical composition that goes further than just pleasing the senses. It is full of beauty and grace and manages to combine musical styles that are quite disparate and deliver a musical release that beguiles, bewitches and enthrals. This is music that will stand the test of time and could become a legacy for this superb band. Abel Ganz has delivered what is bound to become a highlight of this already impressive musical year, I implore you to go henceforth and purchase this musical marvel!
This list is just an opinion, my opinion. These are the albums (and one E.P.) that resonated most with me in the fine music year of 2019.They are not in any particular order apart from my top album of the year…
Not an immediate favourite but an excellent grower that slowly insinuated itself into my affections. Big Big Train are very, very good at what they do and the songwriting and production values are on point as ever.
I have no idea what Steven (Wilson) and Tim (Bowness) were on when they came up with the idea for this pulsating masterpiece but, by golly, can they please give some to the rest of what is becoming a very moribund music scene.
Love You To Bits is a utterly fascinating and overwhelmingly entertaining musical adventure with superb dynamism and a diversity rarely seen in the strictures of conventional music.
Just do yourselves a favour and go and buy it, you will not regret it!
Lushly produced by Soord himself and lovingly mastered by fellow The Pineapple Thief member Steve Kitch, All This Will Be Yours is a cultured gem of a record that has created music as a definitive art form. Born from the joy of bringing life into the world and the pain that Soord sees in the privation and hardship of his hometown, this is an album that will linger long in the memory.
‘The Thing With Feathers‘ is an utterly absorbing twenty-one minutes of music and delivers an undoubted new talent onto the music scene. Serene and graceful yet with a deep intelligence running throughout, I haven’t been this excited about a new artist in a very, very long time.
Bent Knee have knocked me sideways with this new release, You Know What They Mean is a collection of amazing musical journeys, some of them seemingly fraught with danger and all of them apparently from minds that seem to exist in an alternate reality to most people. Utterly mad at times and utterly magnificent at others, it has certainly changed my perspective and deserves to be on the awards list at the end of the year. Just one thing, who, exactly, are They?
The Answer leaves a huge grin on my face, a highly enjoyable cornucopia of musical delights taking you on an amazing journey through 70’s progressive rock, hard rock, funk and pure rock and roll. Containing some utter Carducci gems, this album just keeps getting better and better with every listen and is by far Franck’s most cohesive and impressive work yet.
I think Paul and the rest of Human Pyramids have given us what is possibly the most playful, captivating, bewitching and beguiling album of 2019, it’s like a celebration of all that is good in this world delivered wrapped up for you to open on Christmas Day (Yes, that is the release date!). By golly, we really must all have been very good this year…
Music for long winter evenings in the company of someone you love, ‘Klingra’ will make time stand still as you listen to every nuance and subtlety, it is an incredibly involving experience that I believe everyone should enjoy at least once.
Music truly is the literature of the heart when it comes to releases like ‘Strangers’, this album is truly a work of musical art created by one of the most avant-garde folk songwriters currently alive. Each track has layers of texture that are almost primeval in nature, each is a living and breathing entity that will take each listener on their own personal journey. I suggest you get your hands on a copy and see where this incredible record takes you.
What League of Lights have done is written a wonderful homage to the synth-pop highs of the late 80’s and early 90’s and brought it bang up to date for a modern musical world. For me it is chock full of nostalgia and is a wonderful and involving listening experience. Another highlight in a year that is beginning to produce quite a few but don’t take my word for it, go out and buy it and see for yourself!
Rise Twain have delivered one of the most impressive debut albums I have heard in quite a long time. The fragile beauty will touch you and the profound depth will move you like nothing else, if you only listen to one new album this year then I implore you to make it this one.
IZZ have returned with what should become an American progressive rock classic. Don’t Panic brings classic prog rock bang up to date for the 21st century and should cement this musical collective as one of the pre-eminent bands of the genre at this moment in time and for many years to come.
I’m a huge fan of Bjørn Riis and “A Storm Is Coming” has just emphasized what a huge musical talent this man is. Six songs of loss, love and human relations that everyone can relate to make this an album that touches you on a personal level and one that is already one of the year’s outstanding releases.
“Mind Over Depth” is another impressive offering from the talented Mr Armstrong under the Cosmograf moniker and the lack of a narrative proves no detriment at all. Powerful, cinematic and enigmatic, all the plaudits this release is garnering are richly deserved and will hopefully attract a new audience to Robin’s music.
And so we come to the album that has stood the test of time and really deserved the ‘Album of the Year’ gong from me…
I honestly cannot remember having this much fun listening to a record in a very long time, there’s an utter freedom to the songs and the music, an almost childlike immunity to the cares of the world. With everything that is happening in the so-called civilized world today, we could all do with a dose of the magical Moron Police in our life so do yourselves a favor and buy this album, you will never regret it!
So that wraps up 2019 but 2020 is already looking like another year of stellar releases. This list is as subjective as they come and it is just my opinion, see you on the other side for more of the same…
Moon Halo’s debut album ‘Chroma’ comes from the creative minds of… Iain Jennings (Mostly Autumn)on keyboards, Marc Atkinson (Riversea) vocals and David Clements (Riversea) bass. With Alex Chromarty (ex-Mostly Autumn/Riversea) drums and Martin Ledger (Heather Findlay Band) on guitars. Guest Appearances from Anne-Marie Helder, Olivia Sparnenn-Josh, Janine Atkinson, Tammy Pawson and Micky Gibson.
One of the things I love about music is that when you think you’ve heard the best release of the year, another album comes along and knocks your conclusions right off the mantelpiece. Music should be ever evolving and changing that’s why, in my honest opinion, all great music is naturally progressive at heart.
I think what we want, and get, from music changes as we get older and change ourselves. I was a New Romantic in the 80’s and then became a Metalhead and Hard Rocker in the 90’s before blues and Prog Rock took my fancy into the new Millenium. I’ve listened to so much music over the years, some I have loved and some has disappointed me at a basic level.
Therefore, I can honestly say, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, good music will always be welcomed in my house.
Now I won’t hide the fact that Marc Atkinson is good friend of mine, he even sang at my 50th Birthday. I have followed him from his solo days through the wonderful Riversea and now bang up to date with Moon Halo and he has one of the greatest voices I have ever had the privilege of listening to.
Marc has got together with some like minded musical souls in Iain Jennings and David Clements and they have created a new musical project that is somewhat different to what they’ve all been involved in before.
‘Chroma’ is thirteen songs of perfectly crafted music with the honeyed tones of Marc’s vocals laid elegantly over the top. There is a focused energy and vibe to the album, an electrical charge that you feel flowing though you form the first track to the last.
The Web opens the record with a thoughtful and intensive feel, stylish and polished and you get the first taste of Martin Ledger‘s hefty prowess on the guitar, it soon becomes a signature throughout the album. Iain Jennings slick keyboard skills give Seize The Day a jazzy, funked up vibe that’s enhanced by the excellent backing vocals and edgy riffing. Croma is a wistful, sombre instrumental full of dignity and grace, I’m already finding that it doesn’t take long to get drawn into this rather tasty release and we’re only three songs in!
The heartfelt beauty of The Veil tugs at your heartstrings, Marc gives a vocal performance full of pain and sorrow and the guitar solo is just magnificent. There’s a an immediacy and bang up to date aura to the hard edged and rocky Parachute, a song that could grace the setlist of a Bryan Adams gig and one that puts a big grin on your face. Somebody Save Us is refined and stylish, full of lush layers of smmooth as you like music and overlaid by the, once-again, excellent vocals.
Moon Halo give us a brilliant rendition of modern R&B with the polished What’s Your Name, a song you find yourself quite happily dancing and singing along to as David Clements’ funky bass lines and Ledger’s pin sharp guitar drive it along. Stirring and soulful, Seventh Heaven is one of my favourite tracks on the album. There’s a tenderness to the vocals and an impassioned feel to the way the music is delivered. A moment of contemplation takes you as you listen to the plaintive backing vocals and dreamlike guitar, such a powerfully nostalgic song. 80’s dynamic keyboards open the brash, strident feeling Let Me Out, a track that adds bluster with it’s slap-bass rhythm and Kraftwerk-esque solo, hang on, who let Level 42 in the building?
The vibrant Awoken wouldn’t be amiss on one of Marc’s solo releases and then we are led into the final trio of songs by the epic feeling Across The Dark Divide, a refined, tasteful piece of music that has vitality and soul deep at its core. This feeling of individuality and substance flows into Rise Up, another modern soul and R&B track that wears its vivacity like the quintessential sharp suit.
All good things must come to an end and ‘Chroma’ is closed out by the superb Don’t Let It End Like This. At times tender and graceful, at others powerful and monumental, it is one of those songs that stands out as soon as you hear it. Mesmerising and anthemic, it certainly provides a perfect ending to the album and the guitar heavy play out is just inspired.
I love music for how it can surprise you, lift you up and seem to make the world a better place to be and it’s albums like ‘Chroma’ that continue to feed my passion. Moon Halo have painstakingly crafted and lovingly delivered a true musical work of art and one that immediately lifts your mood and salves your soul, you should buy this record as your world will be a better place for having it.