Review – Fractal Mirror – Slow Burn 1- by Progradar

Fractal Mirror - Slow Burn 1 Cover

“For fast acting relief, try slowing down.” – Lily Tomlin.

Modern life can be likened to being on an express train that only runs between two stations, the one where you board and the one where you alight. The common complaints of ‘not enough hours in the day and too much to do to fill them’ arriving on a regular basis.

We really need to get off this never-ending stressful ride more often, for our own health and sanity, if nothing else. I know it’s easy enough for me to say it but, it certainly helps my well-being to be able to take a step back now and again.

My way of forgetting the intimidating rat race is just to listen to some calm and relaxing music, music that I can unwind to and that soothes my furrowed brow. One of the artists that have delivered this gentle, sedating relief to my busy life in the fast lane has always been Fractal Mirror and they have just released a new album, ‘Slow Burn 1’ so, when the promo arrived, I pressed play to see what wondrous, whimsical world they had conjured up for us this time…

band live

Fractal Mirror is an international recording band. Leo Koperdraat (keys/guitars/vocals) and Ed van Haagen (bass/keys) have made music together since the 80’s in the Netherlands. They met Frank Urbaniak (drums/lyrics) online and compose and record their music via transatlantic data exchanges. While Ed has visited the US during mixing sessions, Leo and Frank have never formally met. The band’s name and compositions are a reflection of their passion for the wide variety of music that has influenced them and has provided the soundtracks for their personal lives.

The themes in ‘Slow Burn 1’ are a reflection of the disruption that technology is triggering in all phases of life, and the platform it provides for consent and dissension about the direction in which our world is heading.

There is a wide selection of guest artists helping the band on this release including Patric Farrell, Kenny Bissett Sr., Don Fast, Leopold Blue-Sky and Brett Kull (Echolyn) who, once again, mixed and produced the album. Brian Watson of Plan A Art provided the stunning artwork.

Track listing

Prelude is a calming opening, lowering the heart rate and getting you ready for what is to come. The signature Fractal Mirror keyboard sound and Leo Koperdraat’s dulcet tones all present and correct. There is a real light and airy feel to Miracle as it opens up. The jangling guitar and Frank’s drums giving a dreamy feel, a deliberate note is in the vocal though, all serious for a moment. The guitar gravitates in earnest and the catchy chorus is really good. Some stylish bass playing adds a touch of class to proceedings. Immediately you feel that the band have matured and progressed in their songwriting, there are layers of complexity on show here, shown in the late 60’s psychedelic feel to the opening of Numbers. The swirling organ note and deliberate drumming add a thoughtful note to the song and Leo’s vocals have an earnest note. It is all cleverly whimsical and wistful, lulling you into a serene state of calm. I see a new found depth to the musicians and one that I am liking a lot so far.

Patric Farrell provides bass on V838 and lead guitar duties are taken on by Peter Swart. On the verse, the song has an upbeat feel, uplifting and light, the rhythm section bringing their ‘A’ game along. Leo delivers another reflective vocal performance. There’s a note of regret, even warning, on the meditative chorus. This track showcases the new, polished sound that is crystal clear and lush. A contemplative and plaintive note pervades Floods. This song has an almost melancholy and ethereal beauty to it, I listened to it with my headphones on and was lost in its sublime, calming grace. Charlotte Koperdraat and Kitty Diepstraten add serene backing vocals, there’s some heartfelt guitar playing and you are left with a blissful lightness of being.

slow burn words

That sanguine, optimistic note returns on Mist, positive drumming, quick-stepping keyboards and Leo’s buoyant vocal all come together to give the song a really upbeat note. Stopping just sort of becoming annoyingly twee, with Don Fast’s elegant 12-string, it left me feeling like I could take on the world, the sun was shining and everything was right with the world. Both Enemies and Embers have a determined and businesslike note to them. While at first resonating a little less with me, they are both still clever, involving pieces of music that did, at first, seem a tad one paced. Charlotte returns on backing vocals for the former, this time joined by Jason Himmelberger. Both songs initially seemed to lack the instant involvement of the rest of the songs on the album but, after repeated listens, they both proved to be slow burning diamonds. It is true that all comes to he who waits, apparently….

A delightful guitar note opens Fading before a tidy drum roll introduces the rest of this feel-good track. A jangling guitar riff and Leo’s expressive vocal add another layer of benevolence. A proper ‘foot-tapper’ it seems to fly along slightly out of grasp with its more AOR friendly feel. Throw in a Peter Gunn style riff and you have another song that lifts its head above the parapet of normality on this increasingly impressive release. Artifacts is another smoothly polished song that just drips panache and style and yet seems to suffer slightly against the inspiration of some of the other tracks on the album. It is a rather nice piece of music anyway, great vocals from Leo and Jason again, combine them with the superlative musicianship and you will never fall below rather good but, to me anyway, there just seems to be something lacking. However, the final track on this expressive musical world of wonder is every bit as good as, if not better than, the rest. Universal is Fractal Mirror doing what they do best, sumptuous music, intelligent songwriting and delightful vocals combine to give over eight minutes of intriguing and involving musical enchantment and it really does leave you on a high. On this final song, the majority of the musical guests make a final appearance with Patric Farrell, Kenny Bissett Sr., Leopold Blue-Sky, and Dan Fast all joining the exuberant gathering. The harmonised vocals are just one of the joys on show and the song runs out with a serious feel of the Beatles circa Sgt. Pepper.

A band that constantly strives to improve and progress, Fractal Mirror’s new album is testament to their devotion to this ethos. ‘Slow Burn 1’ is a multi-faceted delight and a joy to behold. I doff my cap to you gentlemen, after ‘Garden of Ghosts’ I expected something special from you and, boy, have you delivered!

Released 18th March 2016

Buy ‘Slow Burn 1’ direct from the band

 

Exclusive!! – Fractal Mirror reveal details of New Album – Slow Burn 1

Fractal Mirror - Slow Burn 1 Cover

In a great exclusive for Progradar, the eclectic Dutch band Fractal Mirror are due to release their third album ‘Slow Burn 1’ in February 2016 and I was extremely lucky enough to catch up with band member Leo Koperdraat this morning and find out more details about this highly anticipated release.

Leo, Ed van Haagen and Frank L. Urbaniak have released two previous albums, 2013’s ‘Strange Attractors’ and last year’s ‘Garden of Ghosts’, of which I said:

“Not just an album of songs but a journey into a world of profound understanding, ‘Garden of Ghosts’ is not for the fickle of heart or soul. It requires commitment and intelligence to fully benefit from its deeper connotations, once smitten though, you will never want to leave. Fractal Mirror are currently working on their third album and I, for one, cannot wait.

Fast forward nearly twelve months and the band are about to release ‘Slow Burn 1’, what’s the main differences between the two records?

Leo Koperdraat: “The songs are shorter and to the point but we paid a lot of attention to vocal arrangements this time. The Progressive Rock influences are still very much in place (Patrick Farrell of Built 4 the Future even plays Rickenbacker bass on one song and Leo Blu Sky really shines with his bass on the Beatles meets Tears For Fears 8 minute closing track), but we do hope that ‘Slow Burn 1’ will also offer new things to the listeners.”

The band could also be looking at a Crowd Funding option to finalise the album.

I was also lucky enough to listen to one of the new tracks from the album called Numbers  and it showcased the evolution of the shorter tracks with great vocal arrangements, add in some rather intense guitar work on show and it all augurs well for the new album.

‘Slow Burn 1’ features Brett Kull (Echolyn) again on every track and there are guest appearances (so far) from; Don Fast (guitars), Charlotte Koperdraat (backing vocals), Patrick Farrell and Kenny Bissett Sr (from B4tF on BV and bass), Jason Himmelberger (from Jhimm on BV), Peter Swart (guitars) and Leopold Blu Sky (From Unto Us/Mike Kershaw on Bass).

Larry Fast will be mastering again. The expected release date is February 2016.

The striking artwork is provided, once again, by Brian Watson.

I was really impressed by the one track I heard and, if it is representative of what is to come, I am sure that Fractal Mirror will deliver another outstanding and immersive musical experience.

 

 

 

 

Review – Built for the Future – Chasing Light

cover

Life is a journey long taken and, along the way, events will happen that will have differing impacts on you and the way you live that life. The world around us provides many things to aid you on that quest, things that may make the journey easier.

My life’s journey started nearly 48 years ago and has been one of numerous ups and many downs, the one thing that has been a constant is music. I have loved music from a very early age and it has aided my celebrations and comforted and consoled me in times of sadness and negativity.

For the last two years I have been fortunate to put down my thoughts about music in digital print form. For the first 18 months a served my apprenticeship at Lady Obscure Music Magazine, a sometimes steep learning curve where I was helped a hell of a lot my my fellow writers and editors.

Since February of this year I have been able (thanks to my friend David Elliott) to run my own website where this very review will be published, Progradar. I have often likened myself to a musical treasure hunter, searching in the more obscure areas of music for songs and albums that will surprise and delight and maybe become the soundtrack to someone else’s life.

The music I generally write about isn’t written for profit or acclaim, it is written from the heart because that particular artist had a dream or a need to put their music out there for everyone to hear. I find that this type of music has more originality and soul than anything you can hear in the mainstream arena, it makes you stop and think and can move me nearly to tears.

These artists deserve to be listened to by a much bigger audience and I hope that, in some little way, my words can contribute to their wider recognition.

towers

So what new album inspired my soliloquy above? Well, social media is a place I will trawl for new music and it was on a well known site that I met Patric Farrell and learned of his musical project Built for the Future. I liked what Patric was telling me and, without further ado, an offer of  review was given and accepted, the rest, as they say, is history…..

band

Built for the Future is a crossover prog/alternative band from San Antonio, Texas. The band consists of Patric Farrell (backing vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and programming.) and Kenny Bissett (lead vocals) and ‘Chasing Light’ is their debut album. The record also features Dave Peña and Chris Benjamin (guitars) and Imaya Farrell (violin, viola and cello).

The band combines the dynamics of progressive music with the accessibility of melodic songwriting to give far more emphasis on arrangement than dexterous shredding.

Built for the Future is influenced by Rush, Yes( the Rabin years) and latter day Genesis as well as Tears for Fears, The Fixx and, of course, The Beatles. Recent bands that are guiding lights also include Spocks Beard, The Flower Kings and Porcupine Tree.

Having known each other for 25 years, it wasn’t until 2013 that they got together musically when Patric asked Kenny to sing on one song from an album he was working on that the two connected. Once the result of the first few songs was realized, it was clear from that point on that this was going to be a productive relationship.

‘Chasing Light’ is the first complete release that either of them have been a part of in all their years of playing music and is the beginning a series of albums about a protagonist who is seeking to change life and worlds to find ‘light’.

track list

Not holding anything back, Arrive is a most powerful opening track with an intro that smacks of ‘Live and Let Die’ by Wings, emotionally smouldering. The evocative vocal and delicate piano give a real feel of heartfelt hope and anticipation. The piano note hangs in the air before the song opens up with a compelling guitar arrangement, giving you a feeling of real connection with the music. The thumping riff that follows really hits you hard and pulls you along with a pure force of will as this elegant track runs to a quite impressive close, what a great start! More commercial but no less effective, Radiowave begins with a quite funky guitar and bass line driving the song along, the vocals have a sort of Beatles type of harmonising going on and the whole track begins to take on a whole Madchester vibe of the 1990’s, as if the Happy Mondays had unwittingly stumbled upon a new progressive sound. Happily shunting along at a steady pace, it has a real upbeat vibe with that expressive bass thumping along and a few fiery guitar breaks and intricate keyboard runs. Interest well and truly piqued!

An elegant guitar note introduces Lightchaser before a jazzy 80’s synth inspired track then opens up before you. The vocals are deliberate and monotone and give it an early Ultravox feel of sharp suits and sharper moustaches. Being a child of the 80’s this track really connects with me, Kraftwerk synth notes and a real melancholy atmosphere spark memories long forgotten and a happy reverie. The feeling of pathos and poignance is really acute as you lose yourself and travel back three decades for five minutes. We stay in the immediate vicinity of that decade for Speed of the Climb which literally screams new romantics and Korg synthesizers right in your face. The drum note and edgy vocal are completely in fitting with the era and the bass notes could have come straight from the rule book of Mark King. Me? I’m having a whale of a time, this music sits perfectly in my purview, wonderfully judged and the song rises, with some impressive guitar work, to a full-on close.

Ominous and full of portent, Build for the Future opens with a real laconic feel. The keyboards and drum beat are measured and determined before Kenny’s restrained vocal adds another layer of intensity and complexity. Almost funereal in tempo yet very addictive to listen to, it almost seems like a lament for a time gone by and an unknown future, “Build for the future, break with the past….”. An intensely thoughtful and emblematic song with an enigmatic ending. Burning Daylight is another track with a more commercial feel to it and a rhythm section that could have come straight from an early Rush album. The laid back, monotone vocal adds a synthetic feel to the song and the irascible drums leave a mysterious note hanging over everything. The fine guitar play ties everything together to deliver a competent track that doesn’t quite live up to the high standard of what has gone before.

credits

Guitar, drums and keys combine to deliver a 80’s synth tinged prog note to Walls, almost as if Patric and Kenny had spent the afternoon listening to New Order before writing this song. It has real sense of sophistication running through the centre, the creamy production values are much in evidence on this stylish track with a catchy chorus and modish beat which, added to the slick guitar riff that is heard in undertones is really quite inventive. A nod in a definitive progressive direction, Running Man is a homage to Canada’s finest prog pioneers with a bass line that Geddy would approve of and a complex and tricky drum beat. The expansive guitar note gives a really wide soundscape to the whole song and Kenny’s vocals fills that wide open space perfectly, the harmonies are pretty good too! The guitar break brings everything full circle and a fine track is made whole, addictive and transfixing with the baroque brilliance of the guitar solo which just leaves you slack-jawed in appreciation.

A quiet complex and striking introduction launches The Siren Will with a muted dirty guitar riff followed by a chiming guitar run and heavy bass note, think Muse and U2 merged and you’re on the right track. The vocal has that pared back yet incisive feel and you gradually feel yourself drawn into this capable and involving song. You can feel influences abounding everywhere but this band are moulding them into their very own, precise identity and it is one that really resonates with me on discerning tracks like this that leave you wanting to hear more. The polished, urbane guitar solo that closes out the song is a case in point, sheer quality. Seriously psychedelic and funky as you like, Staring at the Sun has a California dreaming kind of feel to the Hammond organ introduction before the vocals break out and we are off into RPWL territory, especially on the seriously addictive chorus. I really like the upbeat and inspirational feel to the song and you can’t help be uplifted onto a higher plane by the open hearted ambience it endues. The chugging riff, colourful keyboards and chanting vocal combine to cover everything with a filmy coat of  the 1970’s (touched by a little of that Madchester vibe again) and leave you with a wide grin on your face.

A halting acoustic guitar opens Samsara and note of seriousness returns. Neo-prog in its origins but alternative rock in its delivery, it is a fast paced track that keeps you on your toes, the ever present urgent drum beat galvanising you into action. The impelling bass beat backs up the drums with a dynamic energy and the keyboards do add a slight tint of psychedelia to the mix. A good track that happens to be sandwiched between two great ones, it does seem to suffer for that. The way the track changes just after half way, becoming more imposing and forceful, gives it added gravitas and an energising injection, enough so that it still leaves its mark on you. Saving the best until last? That would be difficult on an album as impressive as this but lets see what the near thirteen minutes of The Great Escape delivers. The opening is quite profound as the track begins to tie the whole album together, influential and vitalising. There is a brooding ebulliance deep at the heart of the song as it continues to forge forcibly ahead before a well judged break delivers a lighter note and any ominous undertone is lifted. This is a track to envelop yourself in and let it wash over you, seeping into your deepest soul. Don’t resist, leave yourself open to the joy and beauty and you will be well rewarded. The song runs like an overview of what has gone before yet never becomes repetitive. Hope and freedom are the message here, a musical mantra for a better world. As it unfurls before you, the mosaic is opened and all becomes clear. An ardent guitar solo breaks loose and fires into the ether, illuminating all around and the final journey begins. I love the way this song plays out to the close, titillating and engrossing, you dare not leave and yet, as the song finally ends, you do feel an emptiness begin to open up inside you. Dear friend, it is up to you what you fill that void with…….

Damn, blast and buggeration, it has happened again, my own search for the moving and motivational has thrown up another diamond. ‘Chasing Light’ is one of those rare albums that grabs you immediately AND keeps on getting better with every listen. Built for the Future’s debut release is a thing of rare wonder that resonates with me on a personal level, their commitment to delivering music that connects deeply with the listener has produced a record that shines brighter than most I have heard this year.

Released 28th July 2015 (digital)

Buy Chasing Light from bandcamp