Review – Kingcrow – The Persistence – by Jez Denton

The trouble with being a reviewer of the product that gets sent through by the guys at Progradar is that it is almost always of the very highest quality. Every now and then you get an album through that shines brightly, that’s brilliant from the first listen and that just blows you away. But, when that happens, sometimes other albums fade in comparison. And if an album doesn’t get you on first listen, with the sheer weight of great work out there, it will sometimes not get the attention it deserves.

Initially, seeing as I received it at the same time I received the amazing album, ‘3.2 The Rules Have Changed’, by Robert Berry and Keith Emerson, ‘The Persistence’, by Italian progressives Kingcrow, fell into that category of not grabbing me at first, not quite hitting the mark; it initially just didn’t have enough for me to quite want to give it a bit of extra attention. And, because I really am loathe writing a review if it’s not going to find anything constructive, I put it to the back of my mind. But something kept me coming back to it, nagging me to plug in my headphones, to give it another chance.

I’m so glad I did, as with more and more listens I began to really enjoy the luscious melodies that the band has created in this album. Still including their base and original heavy metal roots they have never the less explored, matured and developed their sound to become, as band member Diego Cafolla explains in the band’s press release, ‘a dark ambient, more modern vibe’ that fits beautifully with their existing heavy rock persona.

The Italian nation has always been at the forefront of the development of intelligent, melodic music, be that from the classical composers of old right up to the progressive rock of 1970’s bands such as Osanna and Area. With this album, Kingcrow have taken that legacy on, developed it and updated it whilst keeping true to their base heavy rock roots. It’s a difficult trick to do; undoubtedly new directions can sometimes confound or even upset existing fans. But in the case of ‘The Persistence’, as it was for me, the listener’s persistence will be rewarded by 10 lovingly crafted, gorgeously melodic and interesting songs that still have enough of a heavy metal bite to please the existing fan as they enter a journey of discovery with Kingcrow.

Released 7th September 2018

Order the album on mp3 from bandcamp here

 

Review – Robert Berry & Keith Emerson – 3.2 – The Rules Have Changed – by Jez Denton

One of the more underrated and occasionally much maligned, outside of those that know, musicians of our time was the keyboard genius Keith Emerson. From being at the very onset of British psychedelia with The Nice and progressive rock with E.L.P., Emerson was both an innovator of new music and interpreter of more traditional and classical works; bringing those works up to date and opening the eyes and ears of multiple generations of listeners and musicians to the possibilities of truly clever brilliantly played music.

Emerson was able to create work that kept alive amazing composers such as Mussorgsky, Bernstein and Copeland and introduced them to new and receptive audiences. Keith was also a prolific writer, performer and musician that led him, in the late 1980’s, along with Carl Palmer, to work with another musician with a prodigious lust for creating music, Robert Berry. This led to a band called 3 and an album ‘To The Power Of Three.’ Despite the critical acclaim the band went their own ways before, in 2015, Emerson and Berry came together again and began to create new music for a reboot of the 3 project, to be known as 3.2.

In 2016 tragedy struck, however, as Keith took his own life at his home in California. No-one can truly say for why he took this tragic step, but, from interviews with his partner, Mari Kawaguchi, the doubts he was having (with all the criticism he was receiving) about his ability to play and perform at the high standards which he set himself was, obviously, weighing heavily on his mind. But what is for sure, is that his untimely death left a hole in the musical world and for Berry not only that, but also a body of work for which a decision was to be made on what to do with it.

Thankfully Berry, after a long period of contemplation and grieving, was able to take the snippets of melodies recorded over the telephone, the arrangements written and shared between them, and to put them together not only in tribute to, but also a celebration of Keith Emerson’s life and music. The first thing to say is that this is a ‘proper’ album. It isn’t scratchy recordings or half formed demo’s put out to ‘cash in’ on an artists demise; it isn’t the hackneyed old cliche ‘great career move’, it is a proper album of eight great songs put out with Keith Emerson’s artistic aura breathing through every chord, bar and note. Robert Berry has crafted an album that reads like a love letter to the unique talent that was Keith Emerson. It is full of the trademark keyboard organ sound that marks out a Nice or E.L.P. recording; there’s more than a passing note to The Nice’s version of ‘America’ throughout, there are moments of classical virtuoso playing. I’d say there is (if I wasn’t as cynical a disbeliever as I am) a guiding hand from another place directing the music and production along. Is the spirit of Keith Emerson on this album? well I should say so.

This comes, though, as much from the playing and production of Berry who, obviously, through his friendship and working relationship, has an understanding of where he would have taken this in partnership with Keith, had he been with us all still. This is the great beauty of the album, with production very much in the polished school of late 80’s progressiveness, the sound gives an evocative feel both looking back at a time when Berry and Emerson first worked together and while looking forward to create a fitting end to the career of Keith Emerson.

If, as it has been suggested, Keith was struggling to keep going not knowing whether he would be able to produce and perform work at the standards he set and expected of himself, this album should have proven to him those doubts were unfounded. However, as this album now marks the end of Emerson’s prolific career, it stands as a fitting tribute to and celebration of one of progressive music’s very best exponents, innovators and performers. Wherever Keith Emerson is looking down from, he should be very happy with this work. The fact he is alive and brilliant in this album should also be of great comfort for those of us who loved his music, and, for that reason alone, Robert Berry should be both applauded for and proud of bringing this work to fruition.

Released 10th August 2018

Order the album direct from Frontiers Records here

Review – Evenflow – Old Town – by Jez Denton

In the last couple of months I’ve had the good fortune to have reviewed a number of works by collaborations between very talented musicians who have come together, often after working on other projects and finding lots of musical common ground, to make music that primarily, it seems, enthuses them, which is an enthusiasm that flows through to the listener.

Sometimes the resulting work doesn’t always hit the brief entirely but, on a majority of cases, with prime examples being the 2017 collaboration between Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile and the album released by the duo made up of Laura Marling and Mike Lindsay, ‘Lump’, in the last couple of months. The common factor, it seems, is when it is a partnership working together as opposed to a collective; the lack of too many cooks adds to the broth in subtle ways, complimenting each other in the desire to create an interesting  and well-crafted piece of musical art.

Falling into this category is the latest release on Bad Elephant Music from the collaboration between Stuart Stephens of Whitewater and Mike Kershaw, under the name Evenflow. Evenflow as a name is a suitable place in which to talk about this EP, called ‘Old Town’, as this is a collection of five songs that do, indeed, have an even and gorgeous flow to them. Right from the opening moments of the first track, Creation, Stuart and Mike show their excellent understanding of how to put together their thoughts and music without being seemingly in competition or showing off to the other.

They work together to complement each other’s differing styles and have made a wonderful EP full of the understanding about leaving space in the music and developing a beautifully atmospheric piece. Each player and composer seems overjoyed to be in the presence of the other, meaning that they both allow each other to grow throughout the EP. They have created a truly wondrous collaboration that deserves further development as this duo of Evenflow.

‘Old Town’ is a piece of work that bodes well for the future of this pair as a combination; we can only hope that their own individual work commitments allows them to come together to continue creating. I, for one, was left wanting more when listening to this EP andwould look forward to hearing a longer, album’s length, work from Stuart and Mike. Hopefully Bad Elephant Music will be able to facilitate this and support the guys in future.

Released 29th June 2018

Order the album (only released digitally) on bandcamp here

 

Review – Orions Belte – Mint – by Jez Denton

‘The sweat drips, slowly, incessantly from every pore. The heat stifles thought, inhibiting the dancing of your fingers over the battered typewriter that sits, mocking your inabilities to process the copy you have to wire straight away. You should be documenting the circus that surrounds you; instead you have become immersed in the madness, a willing participant in the debauchery of stinking, easy and accessible sins of the city you find yourself in. You need to sort your shit out, to straighten up and do what your being paid for. But the bottle of expensive cognac in front of you is alluring, its what you need, just a small snifter, you know – just enough to take off the edge, to calm the tremors, to bring you down from the hallucinations.

But it doesn’t. It just adds to the madness and paranoia, its strengthens your psycho-paralysis, its only serves to heighten the desire for the chemical of choice, all of which is readily available out there on the street, in the clubs, where the girls dance in the shadows and where you can fall into the safe zone of blissful oblivion. The hit is going to take you somewhere coddled, in a fog of dreamy who gives a fuck, a place that you desire with all your heart and soul, somewhere away from the pressures you’re being put under, a place that appears to welcome you with open arms…only that it always stay just out of reach. It mocks you and then it challenges you; you need to take more, to become more daring, to give less of a fuck than you already do.

And all the while, you can hear music. A soundtrack to your insanity. Music that is comforting yet disconcerting in equal measure. There are loops of beautiful psychedelic melody that cocoon you, that cover you, that have a soporific effect on you. But yet there is something not quite right. It’s hard to really judge but its as if you are playing a vinyl album that’s playing at 31rpm. Like the belt has stretched or a too heavy weight has been put on the stylus arm, and its ever so slightly screwing with your psyche.’

Orions Belte, the Norwegian musical inventors, have created an album, ‘Mint’, that invokes the alcoholic and druggie writings of a Hunter S.Thompson if he were to have found himself in the Philipines in 1971 when Joe Frazier, the subject of the fourth track, fought and beat the returning Muhammed Ali in the Thriller in Manila, The Fight of the Century. This is an album that plays like a film of that time, with all the kitsch cool of a beautifully hedonistic lifestyle. Bluesey guitar riffs float throughout the album heightening the dreamy nature that could easily develop into something more disconcerting, maybe even frightening. This album wires itself into your mind and plays games with it. It takes you on a trip somewhere amazing, that challenges your perceptions and that is exceptional in both its concept and creation. This is an album in which to lose yourself, but be careful – be prepared to go places in the deep recesses that perhaps should remain unexplored.

Released 17th August 2018

‘Mint’ will be released by Jansen records, check out the artists page here

 

Review – Devin Townsend Project – Ocean Machine – Live At The Ancient Roman Theatre Plovdiv – by Jez Denton

When I hear of bands with project in the name, I get a kind of pre-conception of what I’m going to be listening too. When the main artists name precedes the project I’m pretty certain that I’m going to be hearing a vanity project, some sort of self-congratulatory audio jerk off; a look at me, ain’t I clever piece of work. Not that there is anything wrong with that as often the artist is right, they are that good. They are entitled to show off and give it large. Like Muhammed Ali in his pomp, some projects own the ring they are in and they create an enigmatic aura of musical invincibility. They say, and prove, with some justification, this is great stuff, you WILL enjoy it.

Often the reason this arrogance is successful is because it is done with an element of tongue in cheekiness, a knowing sense of not taking things too seriously. And this is something achieved by the Devin Townsend Project with glorious aplomb. The live album that dropped into my inbox last week is a majestic piece of over the top, bombastic, showing off, rifftastic and oblivion inducing noisiness; a symphony of a tight and talented band being directed by the Project leader to create amazing sounds that help provide contrasting visions of the discordant ingredients that make up this performance on record.

As a reference point I couldn’t help but think back to the early 1980’s and one of the original, and often underrated, exponents and developers of science within electronic music, Thomas Dolby. In 1982 he released his ‘Golden Age of Wireless’ album which was chock full of ideas that invoked scientific exploration and discovery. Which is something that DTP seem to have taken on and updated for a 21st century guitar driven band. Quite honestly, like Dolby, there are great parts of this album that are just completely bonkers, mad as a box of frogs, completely and utterly deliciously loony tunes. With my headphones on, listening to this album, I imagined a band with Christopher Lloyd playing guitar, Dr.Frank ‘n’ Furter on bass and Dr.Frankestein on drums. It is seemingly a live performance directed by Tim Burton in one of his more weird moments. It is a triumph of surrealist bombasticness, an opera of madness, a cacophony of crazy.

The thing with this album and project is that there is a lot thrown at it. But it works. From the choir that moves between sounding like a southern gospel group through to Russian sailors, often in the same song, to the crashing meld of guitars and drums, this live performance treads the thin line between being too over the top, too pretentious, too silly whilst still having glorious moments of sheer, unadulterated and joyful, scenery chewing genius. Referencing a stand out kitsch cult cinematic moment of the early 80’s, if a director somewhere wished to remake Flash Gordon, then the Devin Townsend Project would have to be top of the list for the soundtrack. This live performance is fabulous, brilliant, funny and glorious.

Released 6th July 2018

Order this from Burning Shed here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What’s next for Obscured by Clouds?

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

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

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

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

Review – Obscured by Clouds – Thermospheric – by Jez Denton

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

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

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

Ten Movie Themes

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

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

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

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

Released 4th May 2018

Order the album from Amazon here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released 15th June 2018

Order the album from bandcamp here

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

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

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

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

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

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

Released June 29th 2018

Order the album from Burning Shed here

Review – Tumbletown – Never Too Late – by Jez Denton

I like a rock opera. There, I said it. If I’m in the right mood there is nothing more uplifting than a hugely bombastic, sub-classical, up its own arse (in a good way), melodramatic musical. I find enjoyment in some of Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s most over the top moments; I’d really love to see the revival of Chess (other than the fact it stars Alexandria Burke – but that’s another story.) And this love of musical theatre passes into some of the rock music I enjoy. From seeing Queen and Marillion strut their stuff in the 1980’s right up to recent live extravagant shows by the likes of Muse, bands who rock up to stadiums with music and shows that fill these open spaces will always flick my switch.

Sometimes bands will try to create albums that have the feel of something theatrical. Sometimes they get the balance right and don’t fall into the trap of just creating something a bit naff. And sometimes they don’t. Starting up the first track off the new album, ‘Never Too Late’, by Dutch prog rockers Tumbletown, I had a fear that I was going to be investing time in something on the wrong side of pretentious; it’s a pet hate of mine – opening album tracks called Prelude (or Intro or something equally unadventurous. Give it a proper name guys!) But my fears were soon allayed as we entered the following songs which, on the whole, are marvellously evocative, clever and brilliant tracks.

Ok, lyrically there are some clunky moments; but this I can forgive most bands writing words in a second language. Mind you, it is no worse than some of the worst lyrical excesses of ‘try too hard’ poetry that finds its way into a lot of English prog rock bands too (you all know who I mean here – no need to say much more.) It doesn’t get in the way of the overall enjoyment; cut some slack for lines like ‘looking into my notebook’ and ‘lost muses’ and no harm is done and, to be fair, the stories and tales do flow, the third track, Avalon, being a particular highlight for me.

On first listen to the album I found myself a bit disconcerted as I heard a famous voice in the mix; not literally, but there was a spirit of somebody which I couldn’t put my finger on. What the album did do on subsequent listens was that it opened up doors and avenues to explore, each time you can pick up a new intricacy here, a nuance there. It was one of these nuances that finally allowed the mystery to click as I got the touchstone I was looking for that, being for me, huge similarity to the great Ian Anderson (25 years or so ago, not now he’s lost his range.) That realisation is what made the album for me, this is a kind of Jethro Tull album for the 21st century and that really does fit. After all, Tull and Anderson were always at the forefront of progressive music as a theatrical experience; something Tumbletown’s ‘Never Too Late’ has taken, developed and updated for today’s music.

Released 24th May 2018

Order the album in the UK here

Order the album in Europe here:

TumbleTown – NEVER TOO LATE [CD]