Folllow Me on Twitter

Friday, March 16, 2018

Marbin - Goat Man and the House of the Dead

Now the title of Marbin’s sixth album, sounds like something Hunter S. Thompson could have used during one of his chapters either in Fear & Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 or in one of his essays, The Great Shark Hunt. But then, I begin to realize it sounds like one of those double features as a Grindhouse during those drive-in cinemas of the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.

Released in 2016 on the MoonJune label, they see themselves as if they were scoring a film set in the Spaghetti Western-era in Italy filled with an epic adventure that would have given the folks at Disney, the big giant middle finger on how a real western should be done instead of a singing princess in a frozen castle by letting it go.

They did the same thing on a track called Breaking the Cycle from Last Day of Dreaming released in 2013. And listening to Goat Man and the House of the Dead twice now, Marbin pays nod to the legendary filmmakers of Sergio Leone and Sergio Corbucci. The music captures some of the late ‘60s vibe by tipping their hats to Ennio Morricone and most of the time it’s showing how a real spaghetti western score should be done in the right way.

You can almost feel the essence of Uma Thurman’s character The Bride from the Kill Bill series returning for one last fight before returning to being a mother again on Goatman. This time it’s vengeance and Marbin’s nod to the Man with no Name and the Bride as if they teamed up together for a final showdown who have wronged both of them and ending to the sunset in black and white.

I love how in Whiskey Chaser that there’s a Malaguena riff intro that Dani does as jiracek’s galloping section on his drums before it transforms itself into a Surf sound reminiscing the late ‘50s/early ‘60s nod to The Ventures and Dick Dale with an intensive paced/speed-driven arrangement. But then Carnival comes along. There is this ominous/moody atmosphere that Rabin and Markovitch do as if they are driving into a ghost town.

You can feel the pins dropping at any moment by going into the abandoned locations as Dani’s guitar has these clean tones that sounds almost like Tony Iommi during Planet Caravan. It feels like an aftermath of the bloody aftermath of gunfight that had happened for the first 3 minutes and 12 seconds. It then changes into gear between the guitar and bass ready for another duel at the O.K. corral as if the Man with No Name isn’t done yet.

Markovitch comes in for another dualistic melody between him and Dani. Markovitch takes some of the middle-eastern vibes to follow pursuit between Rabin and Nadel by going in the lead. Not to mention some of the Coltrane improve he does on the sax. The last three minutes heads back for one last view of the dead as Rabin drives off into another sunset for the night to come down.

Goat Man and the House of the Dead, what a killer title. Again it sounds like a Giallo Spaghetti Western that Lucio Fulci could have used by collaborating with Dario Argento, is a very interesting release that Marbin released two years ago. But it shows the cinematic vibes they brought on here and the futuristic setting as if an Italian Horror Western film was made in the late ‘70s would have been the perfect choice for the movie inside your head.

Marbin - Israeli Jazz

It’s been almost a good while and a few years since I’ve listened to Marbin’s music. They have put out six albums, one of which is a live album they’ve released four years ago. For me, they’ve been one of my favorite bands to come out of Chicago that combines the essence of both Progressive Rock and Jazz Fusion that is rolled into a big gigantic blender.

This year, they’ve released their seventh album entitled, Israeli Jazz. Both Dani Rabin and Danny Markovitch grew up not just the sounds of Jazz, Blues, Rock, and Folk Music, but Israeli music in their hometown. Danny describes the naming of the album as an appropriate title because it makes them whole. And while they look through the roots in their hometown in Israel, but also drawing the four traditions of music to create a consistent vision.

And it’s a perfect naming of their new album. It shows that Marbin have come a long way since their formation 11 years ago. And are they ever going to stop? Absolutely not! I’ve always wanted to discover what both Rabin and Markovitch will come up with next. And they’ve never disappointed me by each release they’ve brought to the worlds of Jazz, Prog, Blues, and Hard Rock.

In my opinion, they’ve opened the doors to see what Marbin will be cooking up with next. And the album cover of a bird shooting flames out of its mouth is not just how good this album is, but adding some hot and spicy flavors on here. Swamp House makes you take a trip towards the bayous of Louisiana on a canoe. Stroking down the river on the hottest part of the day, hearing Rabin’s guitar bringing the essence of down-home swamp rock.

With the essence of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s golden-era of the late ‘60s as Dani channels the riff styles of John Fogerty followed by the twists of New Orleans Jazz that Markovitch plays on his sax. They do this incredible melodic duel between some odd time changes as Danny follows the listener towards the night on life of the French Quarter as if Marbin threw their own version of Mardi Gras with a punch at the Preservation Hall.

The title-track gives Dani a chance to get the engine revved up and ready to drive into unbelievable locations. There is this nod to the Mahavishnu Orchestra on here thanks to the speeding tempo they do. Markovitch’s sax at times sounds like Jerry Goodman’s violin while Dani goes through various speeds as if he’s making sure he’s not running low on fuel.

At the 4 minute and 37 second mark, the band go through a tunnel for relaxations as Markovitch lays down some mind-blowing improvisation. And as they reach the light at the end of the tunnel by around the 7-minute mark, they finally reach the end for the highest mark to close it with a crescendo. 

Jon Nadel goes into some funky slap-and-pop bass workout on Arkansas Jumper. He comes at times center stage to bring some grooves that give him some free-rein on his instrument. The only criticism I have with this track is that I wish he had more time on this track so that Nadel could bring some brainstorming ideas so that he extended the minutes more and more.

Now Marbin takes the listener to the sounds of Russian music with Moscow Mule. The style of the arranging and composition has essence of a traditional Russian folk dance with a kick. Dani goes through these various landscapes of the largest nation of the world. The militant drumming by Blake Jiracek and Dani’s guitar makes you wonder how much appreciation they have for Ennio Morricone which is evidential on Breaking the Cycle from 2013’s Last Day of Dreaming.

Nadel comes back for another bass workout to take the frets by going up-and-down as if it is really in some fast walking speed while Pirate Punch makes you feel as if you are on an abandoned 18th century ship as if you are lost in the middle of the pacific ocean. There’s no wind set to sail, cabin fever, and everything going into a panic mode.

The music sets up the scenario through a bluesy atmosphere as Dani sets up the loneliness by going from calmness to raising the temperature level. Then, Blake and Jon go into the driving mode before Markovitch in the last 2 minutes of the piece by showing the listener that there is hope to see a sign of land to be away from the ocean and finding freedom.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, Marbin have been around for 11 years and Israeli Jazz shows that the duo have come a long way. This is really another follow-up that we can see and wonder what Marbin will think of next.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Zombie Picnic - Rise of a New Ideology

It’s been two years since I’ve heard music from the four-piece band, Zombie Picnic after the release of their 2016 debut, A Suburb of Earth. And I almost completely forgotten about them after they did their first album. Well, this year they are back with a follow up and the name of their new album, Rise of a New Ideology, is giving the listener and eye-opening view of what’s happening now and many years to come, and it isn’t a pleasant scenery.

George Orwell once said “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.” The band give you the scenario of what is going on both the 21st and it might happen again in the 22nd century. You can imagine the pictures inside your head of what once was a bright and hopeful city, turned into an abandoned nightmare filled with people gone insane, dead, killed, and it is become the hell that is now of a dystopian nightmare.

You can hear some spoken dialogue throughout the sections on Rise of a New Ideology and the details of the speeches of a knowing that the democracy is now lost and gone forever. Most of the music taken from the inspirations between Mogwai, Radiohead’s Kid A-era, and The Fierce and the Dead. Zombie Picnic take forth on a journey that isn’t just a progressive album, but a sonic yet complex ride filled with Post-Rock, Post-Punk, and Melodic Space Rock.

There are some rising tidal wave sections from the instruments by making you ready to hurtle through the cosmos. After listening around by eighth or ninth time, I was not just mesmerized on how Zombie Picnic’s new album blew me away, but how they would come back for another adventure. And it delivers again. I hope they continue to do more instrumental work and maybe add some vocals on the next release to see where the future or the yellow brick road will take them into next.

Bruford - Seems Like a Lifetime Ago 1977-1980

This 6-CD/2-DVD set reissued on Winterfold Records last year, consists of Bruford’s solo career from 1977 to 1980. The box set contains three of the studio releases and the “official bootleg” live album (Feels Good To Me, One of a Kind, The Bruford Tapes, and Gradually Going Tornado). It also includes unearthed material from one of their live performances they did at The Venue and an unearthed sessions for the fourth album. Bill Bruford has had an amazing career from his run with Yes (1969 to 1972) to joining King Crimson the same year to 1974.

He would worked with his frequent Yes artists including Steve Howe’s Beginnings and Chris Squire’s Fish Out of Water while joining National Health for several live performances. In 1976, he went on tour with Genesis after Peter Gabriel left to embark on a successful solo career as Phil Collins replaced him on vocals. It was the only time Bill toured with them from March 26th to July 11th for their Trick of the Tail tour.

In 1977, at the height of both the Punk and Disco movement, Bruford was formed. He wanted to step into the sound of Jazz Fusion which featured keyboardist Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health), Jeff Berlin on Bass, and the late great Allan Holdsworth (‘Igginbottom, U.K., and Tempest) on Guitar. They released their debut album, Feels Good to Me originally on the E.G. label in 1978.

Recorded at Trident Studios in London, they brought electronic composer and vocalist Annette Peacock to sing on three tracks, and the late Kenny Wheeler (ECM Records) on Flugelhorn. Listening to their debut album, Bill wanted to open the floodgates of the Fusion genre to a wide surrounding and give it a big gigantic push.

The opener, Beezlebub features these odd time signatures between the Marimba, Keyboard, and Drums doing these dueling races by paying a nod to Zappa’s One Size Fits All-era. Holdsworth, Bruford, and Berlin share a section to see on the time changes as Stewart’s rising organ comes into play by going back into the intro. Back to the Beginning begins with Stewart’s dreamy moody ambient opener before kicking into a 22nd century futuristic sound.

Annette’s vocals and Holdsworth’s guitars share the melodic structure while the two part suite of Seems Like a Lifetime Ago has these different mood swings. The first part has this romantic vibe as Wheeler’s flugelhorn makes a melodic ballad to give Annette a chance to duel together. Then it changes into a rising adventure for the sun to come out by giving the band a chance to go for some exercising improvisation.

With clapping rhythms, cowbell (yes, cowbell) keyboards going into the side of fantasy, Bruford gets a little bit of the Brazilian vibes on his kit. Not just a samba, but giving some creative ideas of what he will come up with next. Sample & Hold has some of the progressive textures with bits of post-Gabriel era of Genesis thanks to Stewart’s Twilight Zone-sque organ including a little honor to the Grand Wazoo himself to show some appreciation on the last minute of the arranging and composition.

Their second album, released in 1979, One of a Kind which was a follow up to their debut album, sees an approach of the progressive melodies but with the flows of the Jazz Fusion genre to keep it on a tightrope. The fanfare of Hells Bells by Dave Stewart, makes you ready to embark on an adventure as he gives us a chance to float and soar to new heights on the opening track.

But Berlin himself comes to the forefront for a slap-and-pop introduction on Five G before leading the members for some real funk-fusion vibrations. Holdsworth and Bruford follow up to Jeff by catching up with him for one of the most challenging compositions on One of a Kind.  It did reminded me a little bit of The Mahavishnu Orchestra, but in a good way.

The moody introduction that Dave does on Forever Until Sunday, brings this scenario of the sun to come down featuring some amazing violin work by Eddie Jobson. They do some incredible yet romantic balladry between each other before the groove changes as Jeff lays down some Headhunters-era vibes on his bass before the Keyboards, Guitar and Drums come knocking the door down before Allan brings everything to a crescendo end.

Originally the two-part suite of The Sahara of Snow was going to be on U.K.’s second album along with Forever Until Sunday which featured Eddie and the late John Wetton, but instead it’s used on here. The first part has a droning organ sound featuring a classical piano section with a Dave Brubeck twist. With dynamic sections between Bruford’s drumming and Marimba’s, he’s not just a drummer, but taking turns on where he would go to next by going back and forth on the instruments.

The second part has some of the heavier notes from the piano as it goes into a booming sound along with some clapping sections. Allan follows through with some melodic structures on the guitar. He goes high or low between the frets and bits of the synth loop in the middle.

By 1979, Allan Holdsworth left the band to pursue his own musical aspirations. John Clark or simply known as “the unknown” John Clark replaced him on guitar. The Bruford Tapes was recorded live in the summer of 1979 for a radio broadcast on 92.7 FM WLIR radio at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, New York.

Listening to this live performance, it shows Bruford at their finest. It may have a rough sound, but giving the audience a deliver that shows their stamp of approval. And it is a delivery they’ll never forget by bringing both the energy, and the cannons to erupt at any second. When you listen to Fainting in Coils/Back to the Beginning, the band makes sure the audience are all revved up and ready to go into outer space.

Berlin’s bass and Stewart’s moog give the crowd to clap along for a stomping vibe. Clark isn’t bad on here. He’s almost as if he’s putting his toes in the water to make sure he’s okay. The live version of 5G, is a killer version. They’ve made the jump to light speed for a race tracking version of the classic as Berlin takes the stage in front the club.

But a nice little nod to Rush’s YYZ. The last studio album, Gradually Going Tornado released in 1980, is now one of my favorite albums. Yes, there’s some dividing lines in the sand on Jeff Berlin taking over on vocals on some of the tracks, but is he a great vocalist? No, but it’s not so bad, but okay. However with Ron Malo who produced Weather Report’s two albums (Heavy Weather and Black Market) on the realm, it seems for me, in my opinion, a perfect combination.

Age of Information deals with the subject matter of commerciality and ignoring what the media (we’re talking about pre-Social Media) tells you what to do and doing it your own way and how you want to do it while Gothic 17 which features some chilling cello notes done by National Health’s Georgie Born on the subject of being an neglect and as an outsider and hopefully to escape the hell they are in.

But it’s Joe Frazier that is a real surprise. Inspired by the 1975 Thrilla in Manilla between two of the legendary boxers Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, it showcases more of Berlin’s bass exercise. You can imagine the intensity between the match at the coliseum fighting for the heavyweight championship. The music is almost an alternate score set to the scenery of the match as Stewart’s takes his step towards the Fuzztone approach.

Barbara Gaskin and Amanda Parsons (The Northettes) appear on this album and do some amazing vocalizations on Land’s End.  Barbara who would later join with Stewart in the ‘80s as a duo with their 1981 hit single of the new wave take of Lesley Gore’s It’s My Party, and worked with him during his time with Egg (The Civil Surface), Hatfield and the North, and of course, National Health, lends Stewart a helping a hand.

The vocalizations for the first 2 minutes and 22 seconds, have this symphonic epic surrounding before going into the styles between the Wind & Wuthering-era and Moonmadness-era of Genesis and Camel. It’s has this approach as if the band are riding back home to Earth by going towards a Space-Fusion rock style that the band go into.

Clark and Berlin do some incredible improvisations between the two of them that resemble a little bit of Lunar Sea from Camel’s fourth studio album as if they’re following in the steps of Andy Latimer and Jaco Pastorius. Now we’ve come to the bonus CDs that are in the box set. It includes their live performance in which they shared a bill with Brand X at The Venue in Victoria, London. They did each Monday performance from April 28th to May 19th.

Recorded on May 5th, 1980 during the Tornado-era, the band go into some incredible work at the club and the challenging it was, the unexpected was shown on the live recording how they can take the audience some incredible ideas with them. Bill at times like a conductor on the drums. And he’s giving the band members some ideas on where he wants them to know which direction and area he wants them to go into.

Now the next disc, covers the rehearsal sessions which was going to be their fourth album. The band wanted to move forward into an electronic approach on the next album. Listening to the sessions, I find it very interesting hearing these sketches and it would have been interesting if this was released.

You can the essences of Reggae (Hell’s Midriff), New Wave (Hooligan Juice 2, There Is No Reward, and Consequential Circus), R&B (Should’ve Been Something), Blues shuffling rock (Hooligan Juice 1), and a nod to Stanley Clarke with Saturday No School. But then it all changed when the band broke up due to an expensive bill of tour losses. Bill knew that he had to repay the costs and that was where joined up with Robert Fripp in 1981 for the reincarnation of King Crimson.

The 2-DVDs contain two of the 5.1 mixes from the original master tapes done by Jakko Jakszyk, along with the new stereo mixes of the first two Bruford albums on CD that he’s done. Now I’ve really admired what Jakko has done with the ELP albums, Trilogy and Brain Salad Surgery and his touch on the ’78 Berne concert of the released reissue of Jethro Tull’s Heavy Horses: New Shoes Edition. Listening to the new mixes of those two albums, I find it to be quite interesting.

On the new mix of Back to the Beginning, Jakko’s mix gives Holdsworth a chance to come forth on the chord progressions and improvisational moments he would do throughout the midsection as the synths would lead into a different corridor and then on If You Can Stand The Heat… I love how Jakko brought the levels of Stewart’s jazz piano playing chords and Bruford’s insane Marimba playing on here up a notch on the mixes on the first few seconds.

In the original mix of the piece, it feels as if someone turned the volume a little bit down, but what Jakko did on the new mix, was that he brought the levels up and it’s has a clearer sound than what was on the 1978 mix. And then what he did on Five G, he brought the instruments to come towards the center as if the duel between the Bass and drums doing a frantic duel with a speeding chase.

I had an amazing blast listening to the entire box set. Speaking of the box set. It contains a large 16-page booklet done by Sid Smith containing the history of the band including interviews with the members, photos, newspaper cuts, and promo posters to name a few. It also includes the replica of the Venue ad they did in 1980, two pictures of the different line-up from ’78 to ’80, and an autograph of the limited edition by Bruford himself.

So if you want to discover more than just his run between Yes and King Crimson, then delve into the pool of Bruford’s music. You will not be disappointed. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Slivovitz - Liver

Recorded two years ago at the La Casa di Alex in Milan, Italy except for one track at the same venue on May 25, 2014, Slivovitz showcase the deliver and exuberant performance with the release of Liver. The seven-piece band at the time in 2016, released their third album, All You Can Eat which was their follow up to their second album,Bani Ahead. Listening to Liver, released on the MoonJune label, you have to understand more than just both the Progressive Rock and Jazz world that they brought on here.

Not only they would bring the two genres together, but the elements of ‘70s Funk and Fusion to make you close your eyes and be at the club watching and seeing in awe of cheering and showing support for Slivovitz. Beginning with Mai Per Comando, the sound of Pietro’s tenor sax giving the band doing their nod to the late great godfather of soul, Mr. James Brown and the Headhunters-era of Herbie Hancock, Slivovitz know the funk well.

Pietro channels the styles of Chameleon as if Mel Collins from the Lizard-era of King Crimson came to lend Pietro a helping hand before Derek’s harmonica wails it down as they do a melodic duel. And then at the last minute and 12 seconds, it transforms into a speeding train thanks to Giannini’s metallic riffs to make it through the finish line. From Bani Ahead, Cleopatra Through, the live version beats out the studio version.

You can hear Vincenzo coming in front as he does the bass line introduction. Clocking in at 7 minutes and 30 seconds, this gives electric violinist Riccardo Villari a chance by doing an extended solo. I don’t know if I ever heard it while listening to the studio version, but Riccardo has finally been given carte blanche on his improvisation. The audience are applauding for Riccardo before Pierri, Riccardi, and Stangelo do a stop-and-go moment between harmonica, trumpet, and tenor sax.

Riccardi’s trumpet echoes through the club using the effects on the reverb as if he was inside a cave creating improvisations that are both hidden and haunting on Egiziaca. Alongside Riccardo Villari, Ciro goes through the cave with his trumpet going both up and down before heading towards the light as Perri’s bluesy harmonica and Marcello’s guitar, lay down some blues-rock exercise.

And then, it becomes a mind-blowing finale as it head towards the essence of both Chicago Blues and Hard Rock thumps revved by Marcello in the intro and ending of the piece. The melodic lines between guitar and trumpet come again doing more of the stop-and-go sections in Mani In Faccia. Villari’s violin sets up the quick second beauty before Marcello and Ciro get back into the race for another extended version of the piece from All You Can Eat, but it gets more ideas from the band members to bring it out there from the studio version of the instrumental.

You get to hear the whole team not just hammering it out at the Casa di Alex, but delivering a powerful structure of the composition. Giannini is bringing a lot of ferocious sounds to get the boiling level up a notch. Then, it calms down for the last 20 seconds by ending back to applause. They do a take of Nirvana’s Negative Creep from their 1989 debut album, Bleach, sees Slivovitz going into a Thrash Metal approach of the song.

The sax and trumpet do the melody as it becomes an eruptive take of Kurt Cobain’s song by transforming it between a crossover of the Dio-era of Black Sabbath (Mob Rules period) and the Kill ‘Em All-era of Metallica. I had an amazing blast listening to Slivovitz's Liver. They never done me wrong. I still admire this band so much and after listening about seven times now, I can't wait for the next Slivovitz release to see what will they think of next.

Dusan Jevtovic - Live at Home

Recorded two years ago at Decije Pozoriste in Kragujevac, Serbia on December 23rd which is Dusan Jevtovic’s hometown city. Released by SKC (Studentski Kulturni Centar) and marketed by MoonJune Records for limited distribution, this live recording contains pieces that were featured in last year’s release of Dusan’s album, No Answer. Jevtovic is aided by keyboardist Vasil Hazimanov who was on the album. And also on here with Live at Home is bassist Pera Krstajic and drummer Pedja Milutinovic.

When you listen to Live at Home, you as a listener, you can feel Dusan’s presence during his performance. Not just listening to whole thing from start to finish, but image yourself by closing your eyes watching and seeing the quartet creating these harsh, mysterious, electronic, fusion, twisted, yet innovative sounds they would bring to the live recording at Kragujevac. The opener, No Answer on here, is giving Dusan a lot of free-rein through his improvisation while Vasil creates these cavernous water dripping vibes on the keyboards.

The intensive atmosphere between Vasil, Pedja, Pera, and Dusan himself runs these sonic surroundings on his guitar as it goes through a small amount of maximum power. But it is Vasil himself who is using this delay/reverb effect, walks you through this film-noir setting of the 1940s in black-and-white as if a crime scene has just happened.

And then, Dusan would go ahead go through picking up the pieces before ending with some harsh minor chords. On Angel/Al Aire-Soko Bira, Dusan goes through some electronic hisses before singing the traditional Serbian song. It is a chilling piece for the first 2 minutes and 50 seconds before Vasil takes the keyboards walking down the styles of the Starless & Bible Black-era of King Crimson as if the creature is walking behind the detectives lurking behind them for the kill.

With New Pop, it is a driving composition. It has this late ‘70s to early ‘80s pop sound that Dusan does. Pedja keeps the engine’s running through the hi-hat and the snare drum. Dusan channels his playing between the styles of both Lindsey Buckingham and the late great Walter Becker of Steely Dan. There’s this cross between Fleetwood Mac, Rush’s Moving Pictures-era, ZZ Top, and Steely Dan’s Aja thrown into the blender.

With Vasil’s composition of Briga, Dusan himself gives him a chance to come forth as the two of them do a melodic duel between piano and guitar. Vasil channels Bill Evans (Miles Davis, Kind of Blue) for the first 2 minutes and 36 seconds before switching to the electric piano by creating a strange and mysterious effect. He goes through various moments to give the other three to climb towards the mountain top.

There are some eerie vocals in the background as the intensity level in the last three minutes to give it a real surprise. And then, there’s the closer, Gracias Y Perdon – Outro. The music suddenly turns into a hay-wiring electronic mode and children in the background screaming for joy as Dusan is almost switching channels to create this shrieking hypnotic effect that pays nod to Pink Floyd’s On The Run.

Live at Home as I’ve mentioned earlier, that you as a listener, imaging yourself being at that concert at his hometown, watching Dusan bringing the audience towards a journey of various genres that is spiritual, amazing, haunting, and staggering. Dusan Jevtovic never disappoints me.

Tautologic - Re:Psychle

Released on their own label, Turtle Down Music, Re:Psychle documents Tautologic’s Ethan Sellers’ inspiration of the people that he met in his Hyde Park neighborhood in Chicago. It deals with the subject issues of; veteran’s issues, materialism, addiction, mental illness, celebrity culture, and the need for re-connection with nature. The origins of the band’s history goes back 21 years ago.

Ethan Sellers and drummer Pat Buzby both finished college and Ethan himself knew that he wanted to start a new band with friends while he was a student at the University of Chicago. Buzby studied at Olberin. When he read an ad by Sellers from a Prog-Rock discussion group, he knew it was the next move for him. The two of them both have an appreciation of the genre. 18 years ago, they released their debut album West is North, East is South which received critical acclaim both in the States and in the U.K.

Their next release was in 2002 entitled, The Basement Sessions. Then then work begin of Psychle began back after Sellers did a second theatrical piece called At the Apartment which featured songs from other material and The Basement Sessions. But Psychle was almost released, but due to financial setbacks, Sellers decided to archive the album for a decade.

Now in the year 2018, in the form of Re:Psychle, it finally sees the light at the end of the tunnel. It includes from former and new band members to lend both Ethan and Pat a helping hand. On Your Left is a fun-filled composition with a nod towards the genre of Cajun music. You can imagine Tautologic dance-walking a march towards from Treme to the French Quarter in New Orleans.

It’s almost as if they’re doing this song performing at the Preservation Hall and having a big blast performing the composition with organ, horn sections, violin, and sax going through the location to bring a new day. Their nod to the late great John Coltrane, sends towards a Prog-Pop atmosphere with the Coltrane Supermarket.

Beginning with hay-wiring effects of free-jazz sax improvisation and shattered glass and delving into a crossover between ELO’s Mr. Radio and MoeTar’s Butchers of Baghdad thrown in with some background harmonizing scaling vocalizations. Osaka Garden starts with these sirens, telephone’s ringing, and the sounds of an ordinary day in the city of Chicago along with construction workers drilling around the clock.

The lyrics deal with the subject of getting away from the noises in the street and the city into a quiet location to be away from the society with some gentle acoustic guitar and a nod to the Beatles white album sessions. And then there’s The Admiral. It’s perhaps one of Tautologic’s haunting compositions dealing with someone who is watching you and having paranoia.

It has this terrifying scenario that can be disturbing at times of looking outside to see if someone called the FBI, CIA, or the police, or if someone’s trying to take your life. And Tautologic deal with the subject matter brilliantly well. I will admit after listening for about three of four times now, I have to say that I'm not really crazy about this album, but it’s very interesting and a very interesting concept that Tautologic have released. It is ambitious and well-written with the subject matters based on Ethan’s inspirations in his neighborhood. But it's not a bad release at all.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Kevin Kastning and Mark Wingfield - The Line to Three

As I’ve mentioned in my 2017 introduction of my review of Kevin Kastning’s A Connection of Secrets, It’s been a good while since I’ve listened to Kastning’s music. It’s been way overdue and I figured it’s about time to go back and find out what I was missing. Since 2011’s I Walked into the Silver Darkness, I believe and I might be wrong this is, it is their sixth collaboration that Kevin has worked with Mark Wingfield. The combination between the two of them are a perfect team, and an amazing duo.

Recorded in over three days last year at Studio Traumwald in Northern Massachusetts in February while mixed and mastered in the U.K. at Heron Island Studio, the soundscapes on The Line to Three, released on the Greydisc label, gives Mark the creation he does by doing these deep, immersive sounds that almost made my arm hairs go up. He can make his guitar go through these chilling scenarios.

I almost had this feeling that he's tipping his hat to Terje Rypdal as if he’s watching Wingfield doing these component ideas while Kastning plays not only just the 30-string contra-alto guitar and the 15-string extended classical guitar, but playing some of the most menacing piano chords both high and low. And some of the booming sounds on percussion as if Kevin is making you, the listener, to understand that someone is creeping up behind you or waves crashing at the exact moment.

You can imagine yourself being at the Scandinavian mountains at night and you can almost feel the wind breezing and the pins dropping. Kastning and Wingfield setting up the cold, chilling, and freezing vibes of the mysterious whereabouts of being alone in a cabin with only one candle burning bright with no electricity, small amount of food, and the winds hitting really hard. The music really sets the scenario as if there’s no one to help you or rescue you. The only option is survival of the fittest.

Now, this is my second time listening to The Line to Three. It may not be everyone’s suitable taste in music, but with the elements of Avant-Garde, Classical, Droning, and Experimental music, Kevin and Mark kept me going for more to see what they will come up with next.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Magma - To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma

Next year marks the 50th anniversary of Magma’s formation. While we’re in 2018, and seeing where we will be for the next years to come, it’s time to describe one of the most mind-blowing bands to come out of France like a gigantic cannon blast. Magma were the band that pushed boundaries and often overlooked in the history of the Progressive Rock genre. It’s mixtures between the sounds of; Avant-Garde, Jazz, Rock, Classical, and Opera. It’s almost as if the volcano has erupted at the right moment, at the right time for Magma to come out of the lava and bring it to life.

That and their 2017 documentary directed by Laurent Goldstein entitled, To Life, Death, and Beyond: The Music of Magma, is a very interesting documentary describing the history of the band. Among supporters including not just the fans that are being interviewed, but people like; Trey Gunn of King Crimson, Robert Trujillo of Metallica/Suicidal Tendencies, and Jello Biafra of the Dead Kennedys who are in the film to show their appreciation of this band that are still going strong.

This was a project that Laurent who admired this band for 40 years, went on the road with them during their 2016 tour which was called, The Endless Tour. This is a labor of love for Goldstein and believe me, he’s done it well. With the help of Kickstarter that went up to $26,296 by 386 backers, there are some moments in the film that made me open my eyes more about Christian Vander.

Vander, who founded the band, says in the opening line of the documentary, “We presented ourselves with nothing, we were in the silence, and the music spoke for us.” That’s what Magma did, they spoke to a spiritual vibration and audiences to embark on an adventure that is ready for them to embark on the planet Kobaia. It’s not just for audiences for them to embark on the planet, but knowing it is both the sound and vibrations that will send chills down the spine.

We get to discover Christian Vander’s childhood from the eastern suburbs of Paris called Nogent-sur-Marne. You get to see that he had a difficult childhood, and brought down by both his aunt and uncle at times, but it was music that saved him. It was both classical music and jazz. The house being with musicians including Flautist Bobby Jaspar, drummer and Coltrane alumni Elvin Jones who did a drum duet with Vander in a rare footage between the two of them that guided Vander his steps on being a drummer.

But it was the late great John Coltrane that became a big influence in Christian’s work from the moment he heard My Favorite Things and that was the light bulb that went on for him. It was like a breath of fresh air discovering the master’s work. Whenever he went through his rough times, his music guided him through those troubled times after his mom was sent to jail for stealing.

When Coltrane died in 1967, it deeply affected him and went through depression. But it wasn’t until he wanted to do something to move forward and that was where in the spring of 1969, while he was in Turin, Vander he needed to change his life around and that was where he returned to Paris. To form what would be known as Magma.

There are interviews with former members of Magma including Laurent Thibault, Klaus Blasquiz, Patrick Gauthier, Francis Moze, along with archive interviews with bassist Jannick Top, and keyboardist Michel Graillier to name a few. The DVD contains six chapters including some bonus features that on here. Before I get into that, while this documentary is a legacy honoring the legends of the Zeuhl masters, it’s also short.

Mind you, it’s great to see some of the footage of the various line-ups including Offering and their 1977 performance at the Hippodrome du Pantin in Paris, restored. But it’s not the complete story of Magma. I just wished this documentary was only 2 or 3 hours long instead of 1 hour and 37 minutes.  

Christian Vander has been around from day one. He’s still going strong playing the drums and keeping the Magma train going. There is not a single stop-sign for him. He’s very much like a conductor at times and letting the band members decide where he will go next. At times he would give them free-rein including two bass players during their 1981 performance at Bobino.

Now the bonus features. The bonus extras on the DVD contains Jean-Luc Chevalier playing Jannick Top’s composition on acoustic guitar of De Futura. You can see Jean-Luc really playing the piece sort of in the styles of Django Reinheardt chord-like structures, menacing sounds, bass riffs and improvisations he does. It’s not a bad take, but Jean-Luc can really nail down those changes.

Jello Biafra’s appreciation of Magma and his discovery of the band’s music that he puts up there with The Stooges, Hawkwind, MC5, and Sparks. Trey Gunn’s horizontal vibes on his Warr guitar bringing to mind his Crimson days. It’s very much as if Trey is embarking you on a solar system adventure playing and tapping through his instrument as far as he can go.

And one of the highlights on here is Patrick Gauthier playing one of his compositions On the Persian Markets beginning with the bells and clock chiming before Patrick goes through a dynamic piano concerto he does. It’s a challenging piece, but he nails it through the keys as if creating a score for one the silent film-era between Charlie Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, and Buster Keaton films during the 1910s and 1920s.

To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma is not a bad film, just not the whole story. But we begin to wonder if Christian has a few more tricks up his sleeve and when the time will be right to come full circle. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

King Crimson - Earthbound

Among supporters of one of the first “official bootleg” releases back in 1972 including Nick Cave of the Bad Seeds who worked with Robert Fripp on the second Grinderman project, King Crimson’s Earthbound is perhaps one of the most lo-fi recordings that King Crimson released during the time when the Islands-era line up toured during the states. When it was originally released in the summer of 1972 on the Island HELP label, it topped the mid-price charts in the UK, not on the main album charts.

I wasn’t quite sure for many years if I wanted to delve into the Earthbound album. But when I heard that it was going to be reissued as a part of the King Crimson catalogue in the 40th anniversary series (CD/DVD) by making it the 12th release last year, I was thinking to myself, “Let me give this live album a chance.” Listening to this, I will admit, it has a very rough sound due to being recorded on an AMPEX stereo cassette from a Kelsey Morris custom built mixer.

It’s not bad, but it does a very raw and rough sound. Listening to the bluesy rocker Peoria, the late great Boz Burrell does an incredible job scatting through his vocals as Fripp’s wah-wah on the guitar, lays down the rhythm as Ian Wallace’s pounding drums on the bass drum, follows his textures to get the groove and follow the paths of a mind-blowing trip. Mel Collins’ mellotron on The Sailor’s Tale takes you beyond the sea and heading towards the sun to rise as it sails from Fripp’s guitar work along with Boz and Ian creating these jazz beats between the Bass and Drums.

Even though it fades out in the end from Ian Wallace’s drum solo, I wish they continued more with that. But Ian takes center stage as he, Boz, and Mel’s sax improvisation continue with the Blues on the title-track. Boz scat’s well and channeling the greats of Al Green and Otis Redding. The Soul and R&B roots are delved into this classic. You could see where Boz was about to go into before embarking success with Bad Company.

When you listen to the opener, 21st Century Schizoid Man, you can imagine Boz’s vocals speaking through as if he was a Dalek from Doctor Who. The band in this are tight and keeping the machine flowing on here. Wallace’s bass drums is way too loud on here. Again, the criticism on this, I wish it wasn’t recorded in front of the stage, but on the soundboard instead of being up to a maximum volume.

The DVD contains a new sequence stereo version of the Earthbound album including a very interesting yet staggering version of Ladies of the Road, an intense take of The Letters thanks to the blaring nightmarish saxes of Mel Collins yet in the styles of Coltrane, also on here are two extended versions of both The Sailor’s Tale and Groon. Here, at their best, you can hear them what they could have been on the original release of the album.

The second thing on the DVD contains the original vinyl transfer release, the 11-part sections of Schizoid Men which was originally part of the DGM release of Ladies of the Road the 2-CD set in 2002 in the King Crimson Collectors Club during the Earthbound tour. Listening to Schizoid Men, the compilations between Mel Collins and Robert Fripp, is like a dueling car chase. It’s quite the surprise to hear them really hitting the race track to see they’re going to do next. 

And Ian following suit to be ready the blow the whistle at any moment. It made my arm hairs go up. But the Summit Studios recordings which contains both the New Stereo Mix and the Quadraphonic Mix, makes you realize that this could have been the should have been the Earthbound release.

The 16-page booklet contains liner notes by Sid Smith, including photographs of the band’s performance during that tour in ’72. It also includes pictures of the vinyl from Polydor label, press ads, and the final concert photos they did on April fool’s day in Birmingham, Alabama at Municipal Auditorium. After the tour was done, the band broke up. It wasn’t until they came which would later be their golden-era which was the John Wetton and Bill Bruford-era from ’73 to ’74.

Earthbound is not a great live album, there are some flaws on here, but it’s very interesting that it finally got the King Crimson 40th anniversary release. Would I listen to this again? Not really. But it’s understandable where they were about to go with next until their next live album during the Red-era entitled USA which is consider their best.

Vantomme - Vegir

Dominique Vantomme is a Belgium based pianist, keyboardist, composer, and producer. He’s worked with many of the European Rock and Pop acts while being a Jazz piano instructor at the Music Conservatory in Kortijk, Belgium. That and the collaboration between Chapman Stick and Bassist Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, and Stick Men), Guitarist Michel Delville (The Wrong Object, Machine Mass, and douBt), and Belgium drummer Maxime Lessens.

It seems like an interesting combination, but it works! The four of them created this ominous, dark, haunting, yet nightmarish to kick 2018 off with the release of Vegir. The origins of the Vegir project started back two years ago when Dominique went to meet with his old friend, MoonJune labelist, Leonardo Pavkovic. And then, he befriended Tony Levin.

The quartet recorded the album back on October 29th, 2016 at Studio Jezus in Hoboken as it was mixed by Fritz Sunderman and mastered by guitarist Mark Wingfield (Kevin Kastning, Dwiki Dharmawan). Listening to Vegir, it’s almost as if you were at the recording sessions being in awe of the masters to bring the genre of experimental, jazz, and progressive music back to life, but done in the scariest way possible.

Not only that, but it is almost as if someone was creeping up behind you as if someone is lurking underneath your skin. And that is what Vegir does. Not just to give you the creeps, but being prepared to fasten your seatbelts. Because the music will chill you from beginning, middle, and near the end.

Vegir begins with Double Down. The opening track that clocks in at 7 minutes and 37 seconds, Dominique gets the car running between both the Rhodes and Mellotron before Tony and Maxime come into the seats between the back and the front of the station wagon. And then, Michel comes in last before Dominque gets the car started with these hypnotic effects.

Delville does these psychedelic wah-wah effects in the background as if Vantomme was driving through an endless passageway that is something straight out of David Lynch’s Lost Highway or Twin Peaks. Michel and Dominique go into this haywiring mode as Delville screeches through the instrument as if at any second he’s about to boil the kettle with a high pitch scream.

Part Agitation Free, part Soft Machine’s Third-era, it is an intensive introduction to start the album off as if Vantomme has already lit the fuse to let the Cannon erupt at any second. Sizzurp has this reminisce of the opening of the late ‘60s and ‘70s Italian Giallo films. It’s Dom’s synths channeling the VOX organ plus the spooky vibrations of Goblin’s Claudio Simonetti and Italian Progressive Rock band, Unreal City.

Then at 1 minute and 54 seconds, Dom and Michel go into some hard heavy walks followed by Levin’s bass riffs as if the three of them are walking into some deep, dark alleyway. However, in the midsection, the hay wire voyages of space comes in at light speed before Maxime calms everything down with his drum patterns as Delville screeches in the reverb effects. You can tell that Dominique is paying homage to Steven Wilson’s 2009 debut as a solo artist with the release of Insurgentes.

The grooves really give the quartet to feel all of the power and the energy flowing with its sections that can be terrifying. Levin and Lenssens keep it together for a texture of a dooming approach. Then, near the end it heads back into the VOX organ finale of the Giallo films. Now we’ve come to The Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone.

Here, the quartet brings their hats to a bow of the Canterbury scene. You can imagine them showing how much their appreciation of the movement to make sure the flames don’t burn out in the water. Dom’s nod to both Mike Ratledge and Dave Stewart (Egg, Hatfield and the North, and National Health) is shown as he channels both of the keyboardist doing some of the Hatfield and Soft Machine’s improvisation.

But the three of them, give Tony a chance to come center stage. With Agent Orange, Levin’s Chapman lays down the tracks as if he’s on a dangerous tightrope. And you may never know if the rope is going to be cut or not. But the composition, it’s a film-noir story in a movie inside your head.

You can tell that Levin’s Chapman is dealing the situation on the aftermath of a horrific scene for the agent to find out what really happened in the gruesome murders while the music increases on the right track. There’s the King Crimson motif’s that flow between 1973 and 1995 from Larks Tongues’ in Aspic and THRAK.

MoonJune Records really kicked it off this year with this amazing release. I have listened to this three times now. It’s quite surprising to see what the label will think of this year for me to be a part of their train and seeing where they will stop and what my ear will come up with next.

Whether it would be a band or artist, Leonardo Pavkovic knows his stuff and I can imagine that he’s not just the train conductor, but he’s also riding the train to see where the magic and mystery lies ahead in those tunnels the train is about to go into.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Magma - Live/Hhai

Magma for me, are still one of my favorite bands for nearly 13 years after my Mom bought me the Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock era 5-CD box set whilst I was in College along with the ProgArchives website also. Magma is a band whether you get it or you don’t. Magma always were often overlooked in the history of the Progressive genre and again they’re this mixture between Opera, Avant-Garde, Jazz, and Rock rolled into a big gigantic smoothie.

That and the 2-CD reissue of Magma Live/Hhai which was recorded on June 1st and the 5th of 1975 at the Taverne De L’Olympia in Paris showing them at their finest. The band at the time released their fifth studio album entitled, Kohntarkosz in 1974. During the autumn of that year, Bassist Jannick Top departed the band along with some of the members. So it was up to Christian Vander to find some new blood to fill in the shoes of Magma.

After long rehearsals, Vander knew right away the magic and mysterious vibrations he brought, it was time to do a live album. When you listen to Magma Live, you can feel their presence. It’s not just Christian himself, but the band coming together as one. And you can imagine yourself at the concert just in awe of how they brought the harsh tones, menacing vibes, powerful structures, and operatic arrangements thanks to Christian’s vocals.

The first disc begins with the 2-part suite of Kohntark. With the cry of “HAMATAI!” and the blaring crescendo between Didier Lockwood’s violin and Christian’s drumming that sounds like a gigantic cannon blast waiting to happen at the right moment that is expected to happen. Paganotti’s bass keeps the tempo following the fuzztone sound that is dooming.

He follows Vander wherever he goes and during the approach or reaching the fast sections of the piece, he follows him wherever he goes. On Part 2, it brings the audience’s approval as the temperature level goes up. It goes into a frenzy, but with an intensive vibe on the last six minutes of the piece. Federow and Lockwood show their nod to both John McLaughlin and Jean-Luc Ponty a-la Mahavishnu Orchestra style ending before the crowd cheers and applause erupt.

On the second disc, Hhai starts with this soulful sound on the Rhodes that feels at times like a ballad. And it’s Christian not just singing Kobaian, but the roots of the Soul/R&B flows in his vocals as he gives his nod to the sound of both Motown and Otis Redding. And then, the instruments come pushing the door down as they go into this dashing race towards the finish line.

As I’ve mentioned before it’s the nod the sound of the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Magma know their Jazz Fusion very well. When you listen to the first track on the second disc, you can tell they’ve done their homework very well. It’s this essence of the Mahavishnu’s debut album, The Inner Mounting Flame.

Lihns is a real treat. The listener is walking into a maze thanks to the Organ and the Bass. With the Clock ticking, Magma sets up the clues for them to see where they will head into. It’s almost as if they’ve done a score to one of the episodes for the 1992 classic, Batman: The Animated Series. The Rhodes creates these walkthroughs on their inspirations.

With call-and-response between Christian, Klaus, and Stella, you could tell there’s some snippets of Mekanik Destruktiw Kommandoh. While the last two tracks on the second disc contains the excerpts of piece incuding Da Zeuhl Wortz Mekanik, the 18-minute piece, Mekanik Zain contains the two pieces Nebehr Gudahtt and Mekanik Kommandoh. This is where they bring the Taverne to a standstill as Klaus and Stella come together with Christian as they bring, a big gigantic push.

It is a great version of the excerpts on the second disc as Didier follows the melodic line on the vocal arrangements with his violin. And in a full speed run, he keeps up the pace as Christian follows suit of making sure he’s in the lead. It ends with the audience clapping and chanting for another encore. 

So if you want to be prepared to put your toes in the water of Magma’s music, then close your eyes and imagine yourself being at those two shows at the Taverne in June of 1975 and seeing Magma at their best.  

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Crocodile - His Name is Stan and He's a Bad Motherf**ker

For me, Austin has always been on my radar from some of the best progressive bands to come from the Lone Star state. Whether it’s Proud Peasant, Opposite Day, Thirteen of Everything, Stop Motion Orchestra, and this new band that launched two years ago of this new up-and-coming quartet called, Crocodile. The band considers; Greg Seale on Drums, Philip Spann (since replaced by Thomas Shaw) on Keyboards, Kevin Sims on Vocals and Guitar, and Ted Thomas on Bass Guitar and Vocals. They’ve released their debut album this year entitled, His Name Is Stan And He’s A Bad Motherf**ker.

Crocodile’s music takes a lot inspirations from the realms of Gentle Giant, Haken, Jethro Tull, and Rock Progressivo Italiano band, Premiata Forneria Marconi. The quartet honors the legacy and the spirit of the genre by making sure the flaming fires of Progressive Rock keep burning more and more and never hitting the water. Their debut album is also a concept album, about a story that Kevin Sims wrote about a man named, Stan when he was 16 years old.

Stan is a Workaholic. And obsessive. What he wants to do is be the type of person who wants to get the job done right and making sure that Stan wants to reach towards the light at the end of the tunnel to survive and see how much he’s accomplished from a young age to adulthood. I’ve picked a few highlights on the album that really got my attention and keeping an eye out for this band that will hopefully get the word out.

You have this almost wacky time change of 3/4 along with some other odd changes coming through the xylophones and guitars on I Was a Worker. There are these Carousel-like arrangements from Stan’s like as a working man as the nod to both Gentle Giant and Haken’s background vocal arrangements flow well as if forming a tight circle as the walking up-and-down section of the stairs that is part of the melodic mode format.

The catchy beats on Sawhorse, rides off into a new chapter in Stan’s life as if he’s on the rocket ship ready to hurl through the cosmos while Kevin and Philip bring the puzzle pieces together by creating magic and working hand-in-hand as a band of brothers to know they got each other’s back. Then, there’s the gothic folkish nightmare lullaby instrumental with Mellotron chords with a Danny Elfman-sque score that is straight out of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands on the short instrumental Interlude (lunchtime).

Stan, is a real killing composition. It describes the main character as if it was told through Samuel L. Jackson’s wallet from the 1994 cult classic of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Kevin’s guitar goes from and rhythmic structures that at times has some bluesy vibes as the opening riff between him and Phillip’s keyboards shows how much hard work Stan goes through day and night.

With Stir the Stain (F**k the Door), there are these mysterious tones almost as if Crocodile are searching for more clues to see what the criminal left behind. Not to mention a late ‘60s vibe on the guitar chords with a psychedelic vibe, hypnotizing sounds, and bass-picking by Ted Thomas as if he and the band mates are picking up the pace to know they are on the right track.

The closer, I am Stan begins with this Bluegrass electric intro featuring the harpsichord. The song takes place 25 years later as Stan has accomplished for all the work he’s done, through the thick and thin, and the heart that he has inside of him. And it goes to show that he’s come full circle. The band come together to bring Stan walking off into the sunset and knowing that it is time for him to relax and take a long vacation.

Crocodile have really got something that not just took me by surprise, but how their debut album works on different levels. Whether it’s hard, gothic, progressive, or odd time signatures, they've completely brought it all to the table. And while this is my ninth time listening to their first album, the beginning for them to walk on the Yellow Brick Road is only just the beginning.