Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Isotope - Illusion [1975]

This is the second album by the British based jazz fusion quartet Isotope. While the recorded sound is a bit on the murky side, the performances more than compensate for it. Guitarist Gary Boyle really shines here, bringing together elements of Indian music (he was born in India originally), jazz, Hendrix and John McLaughlin with a tart, biting tone yet still having a unique warmth.

Former Soft Machine bassist Hugh Hopper lends his distinct fuzz-bass sound to the proceedings and gives the songs a lot of extra bite and grit as well as being quite melodic in his own unique way. Drummer Nigel Morris seems to have found a precarious balance of technique and soul as he propels the tunes at a brisk pace, really listening to the other musicians as opposed to just showing how fast he could play. Lawrence Scott provides understated keyboard support (mainly on Fender Rhodes) but doesn't seem to feel comfortable going out on the edge as much as the other musicians do.

If you enjoy a well balanced diet of melody, dense harmonies and fiery instrumental work, give this a spin!


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Hush Arbors - Hush Arbors [2008]

One of the shitty things about doing a best of year list is that you will always discover other fantastic stuff from that year in the following years, such is this. Seeing as groups such as Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, and Yeasayer helped shape the sound of summertime with their popular psych-washed acoustic folk, it's unsurprising that similar sounding acts have begun to show up in the spaces between.

Hush Arbors, a duo consisting of songwriter Keith Wood (contributor to records by Current 93 and Six Organs Of Admittance, along with many others) and his long-time collaborator Leon Dufficy, have actually been performing a lot longer than any of those acts-- almost a decade, in fact. So it's an ironic yet familiar tale that this recent wave of new music might help bring them belated attention. For those who haven't yet heard the band's delicate, experimental free-folk compositions, Hush Arbors is a great place to start and adroitly encompasses all of the Virginia based duo's most engaging qualities.

Water, mountains, light, and mysterious women give weight to every track, brought to life by the ethereal, unpredictable cascade of sounds that take their place among them. This is a great psych-folk release and when i can be bothered to redo my list, these guys will be there somewhere.


Atlantis Philharmonic - Atlantis Philharmonic [1974]

This USA duo was formed in Cleveland during the early mid 70’s by Royce Gibson on drums and the multi instrumentalist Joe DiFazio on everything else.Their style is mostly the blending of Symphonic influences like Camel, ELP etc. with some fusion and a bit of hard rocky Moody Blues in moments. Their first and only LP is the 1974 self titled album released by the label “Deutsche Harmonia Mundi”.

The eclectic sound of this album has very characteristic features like the excellent vocals close to a blend of Psyche and Pop plus a hard edged guitar that reminds of Early ELP or The Nice. In tracks like "Friends" we can hear some heavy rock influence similar to Uriah Heep or Deep Purple, and "Atlantis" sounding more like the stuff Atomic Rooster was putting out. There is also some atmospheric touches like in the incredible "Woodsman" that also blends some Jazzy leanings.

This super rare, eclectic album with a clear classical orientation (As their name clearly suggests) is considered one of the earliest examples of USA Progressive rock. You won't be dissapointed.


Neil Young - On The Beach [1974]

Released in 1974, 'On The Beach' found Young at his most vituperative. His guitarist Danny Whitten and roadie Bruce Berry had overdosed on heroin, his marriage had disintegrated and his son had been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Most pointedly, there was a black disillusion with the hippy idealism and rewards of superstardom which had sustained him previously.

It's a nasty piece of work. "Good times are coming, but they're sure coming slow," he growls on 'Vampire Blues', one of a clutch of stunted 12-bars where Young's defeatist mood is matched by the torpid, sloppy brilliance of his playing. On the mighty 'Revolution Blues' he assumes the role of a Manson figure, slaying his fellow stars in their canyons. It's the one time on the record he sounds remotely happy.

Initially fans and critics were shocked with this release, as this was the long-awaited studio follow-up to the commercially and critically successful Harvest. Over time it has become one of his most respected works, and with good reason. The bleakness and crude production make for an amazing listening, one of my favourites!


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Scientist - Scientist Rids The World Of The Evil Curse Of The Vampires [1981]

Hidden behind the corny and yet awesome album cover is some pretty groovin' stuff here. Scientist (born Overton Brown in Kingston, Jamaica) came to prominence in the early 1980s and produced many albums, his mixes featuring on many releases in the first part of the decade.

Many fans came to know his music due to half of this album being used on the soundtrack for the popular videogame Grand Theft Auto III. However, Scientist received no royalties for this and sued Rockstar Games unsuccessfully in a US court. The court ruled that according to precedent a recording mixer was not considered the author of a musical work, and so Rockstar were correct to treat the producer Henry "Junjo" Lawes as the copyright holder of the album. It can, however, be argued that Scientist was introduced to a much larger audience as a result of the licensing of his album to Rockstar, in which case he may have sold more records.

In a genre i'm relatively unfamiliar with, Scientist kicks ass!


Mammatus - Mammatus [2006]

Taking their name from one of the coolest looking cloud forms on planet Earth, this four-piece Santa Cruz band cites Sabbath and Hawkwind as their biggest influences, like most bands of the Stoner Rock genre. They were formed in early 2005 and started playing in pubs and living rooms. They then recorded their debut in their own garage with no money and little resources. Their sound caught the attention of several record companies and released their self titled debut in 2006.

With an album out people around the world got a taste of what Mammatus has to deliver. Heavy guitar riffs, improvisations, psychedelic passages, forest, dragons ie. Check this stuff out, if you can handle it.


Larry Coryell - Introducing The Eleventh House [1974]

Larry Coryell stands on equal footing with John McLaughlin as one of the premier jazz fusion guitarists and this probably represents his finest achievement. Many people consider his earlier work with McLaughlin, 'Spaces' as writing the textbook for fusion style guitarwork, but to me, this is his greatest overall musical achievement. Comparisons to the original Mahavishnu Orchestra may seem to be inevitable considering the power and attack of the band's performance, but stylistically, the band plays much closer to the fusion/funk style of Herbie Hancock's Headhunters.

Their is not as much of an eastern influence as the Mahavishnu Orchestra and there seems to be a wider variety of tempo and stylistic diversity on this recording. The synthesizer runs and Randy Brecker's trumpet keep pace rather well with Coryell's intensity and the compositional framework is elaborate and melodically sophisticated. But the highlight, of course, is the blitzkrieg of notes being pummelled out of Coryell's guitar mostly trading with synthesizer and trumpet, intermingled with more mid tempo improvisations; but the dynamics and interaction feature not just beautifully intricate work, but ingenious melodic and harmonic scales befitting musicians of the highest technical accomplishment.

This is probably one of the most technically perfect fusion recordings out there; a joyous and awesome performance!


Monday, January 12, 2009

Sumner McKane - North [2005]

McKane is one of those guitarists who makes it seem simple, but his easy-going fingerstyle on electric and acoustic guitars is deceptive. He's an orchestrator of guitar, creating lush filigree and sometimes searing leads.

For "North", he's assembled a small, sympathetic ensemble of drums, bass and occasionally violin. "Careful it Doesn't Look Safe Yet" is typical, with double acoustic guitars laying down rivulets of sound while McKane's electric fades in and out in phantom sustains. McKane's "day job" is playing in a Country & Western band(don't let that scare you off) and you can hear that influence here in the plaintive fingerstyle picking and pedal-steel-like sustains and bends he brings to his electric guitar.

A friend put me onto this and it has become of my favourites. The music is quiet, slow, lingering and at times almost haunting. Amazing stuff.


King Crimson - Live at Summit Studios [1972]

You can always rely on King Crimson to challenge your expectations, even in a 30-year old archive recording from arguably the least popular lineup of the band. If you only know this Crimson from their 1971 album "Islands", prepare to have your eyes and ears belatedly opened, and better late than never.

At this point in the band’s history the signature KC spirit of “energy, intensity, and eclecticism” (quoting Mr. Fripp himself) had been all but reduced to just the eclecticism. But this live-in-the-station radio broadcast, recorded in Colorado during their final U.S. tour, offers a candid and surprisingly playful portrait of a group supposedly in disarray, and as a welcome bonus it sounds a heck of a lot better than the sub-bootleg concert tapes on the posthumous "Earthbound" album.

Arguably the finest quality on any of the existing King Crimson Collector's Club releases, with an exceptional amount of delicious improv.

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Link P2:

Friday, January 9, 2009

Panzerballett - Panzerballett [2005]

Panzerballett is a heavy jazz-fusion band from Germany who play an exciting brand of instrumental music that is sure to tickle the fancy of prog, metal, and jazz fans alike. Featuring Jan Zehrfeld on guitars, Gregor Bürger on sax, Florian Schmidt on bass, and drummer Max Bucher, this combo lays down some funky grooves littered with wild solo spots and complex, often times metallic arrangements.

Many of the songs steamroll ahead with mean intentions, led by Zehrfeld's intricate guitar riffs and melodies and the squonking sax of Bürger. The constant battle between funk, jazz, and metal is what makes these songs so interesting and so enjoyable.

Check it out, you will most probably agree that these guys are going to be big amongst the prog/fusion scene of today, keep your ears open!


The Assemble Head In Sunburst Sound - Ekranoplan [2007]

Anyone interested in the retro/heavy rock releases from the awesome Tee Pee record label (Earthless, Ancestors, Witch, Graveyard, Titan) should get their hands on this little scorcher as soon as possible! With roots clearly in the psychedelic rock scene and influences such as Pink Floyd, Crazy Horse, Sabbath, Iron Butterfly, The 13th Floor Elevators & Blue Cheer, The Assemble Head is a band that might have better fit in the music scene in 60s.

This major label debut successfully merges the styles of some of the mentioned bands above into one ass-kicking experience. "Mosquito Lantern" for instance, is built around an Iron Butterfly-ish hard rock riff while "A Bourbon for Rudy" is even more blues-based, and bleeds straight out of the brighter "The Corner Zombies". In contrast comes the darker "Occult Roots" a song that slips right into Sabbath's satanic realms, while the blistering "D Brown" boasts Hendrixs-esque guitars early in, but swiftly settles into a delicious Creamy jam!

As with such groups as Comets on Fire or Dead Meadow, the individual elements of the Assemble Head's onslaught are less important than the music's overall cumulative wallop. It’s the kind of music that asks you to just sit back and let it all wash over you. Highly recommended stuff, god bless Tee Pee!


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Pure Reason Revolution - The Dark Third [2006] + NEARfest [2007 Live]

Pure Reason Revolution is probably one of the most interesting prog related bands of today. On one hand they are a modern day rock band with lovely vocal harmonies, on the flip side they smack you in the face with their mesmerizing brand of Floyd-style space rock! Take The Beach Boys poppish tunes for example, and mix it all up with some heavy guitar riffs, complex song structures and otherworldly concepts. The result is a beautifully flowing record produced by Paul Northfield, who also worked with Rush, Porcupine Tree & Gentle Giant.

It seems there has been a different tracklist for every country this was released in. The version i am posting is the Euro release, which is actually the entire US release as well as 5 bonus tracks.

Link P1:
Link P2:

Two years after the release of "The Dark Third", PRR offers a livesession recorded at the NEARfest festival in 2007. The sound quality is absolutely amazing. They play majority of their material from "The Dark Third" as well as a few new tracks. These sound somewhat heavier and even a little more electronic, perhaps this is an early example of what their future work will sound like?

The melodic and atmospheric passages somehow find their way between the sonic guitar explosions, sounding like something Steven Wilson would be happy to call his own. Their highly anticipated sophomore album is expected to drop sometime in March this year. Keep your eyes out for that one!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Roger Dean 1680 x 1050 Wallpaper Pack

Over the last year or so i have had people asking me about the images on the right hand side of my blog, as well as the various banners i have used. They are all Roger Dean pieces. Over the years he has designed record covers for Osibisa, Yes, Budgie, Uriah Heep, Gentle Giant, Steve Howe, Greenslade, Asia, Earth & Fire, Billy Cox and Babe Ruth, just to name a few. In more recent years Dean began designing video game covers, the new tetris logo being one of the bigger ones.

It's kind of a shame all these wallpapers are rather hard to track down in good quality. A few years ago i had been trawling through the deep end of blogsearch and managed to snag this little gem. Here are 60 of Roger's finest works in full size and colour.

Consider this my late xmas present to you all ;)


Monday, January 5, 2009

Eloy - Power and The Passion [1975]

I think i'm kind of alone on this one, but "Power and The Passion" stands as my favourite Eloy album. This is the album where the band thought they needed to do away with the then limited hard rock style and focus on a more symphonic prog sound. Although they would go on to further develop this new sound on albums to come, "Power and The Passion" still mixes in some of their earlier psych hard rock beginnings which gives it a very unique balance. 1973's "Inside" might just be my second favourite, as you can tell i prefer that early lineup.

Unfortunetly this would be the final album from this band lineup thanks to difficulties with the the producer, Jay Partridge. The album wasn't selling too great but was still enjoying moderate success in Germany. The record company decided to give band leader Frank Bornemann a second chance. He went on to ressurect the band with new members and perfect the sound he was playing around with here.

"Power and The Passion" is an excellent mix of slowly moving space rock and full on hammond/guitar hard rock. It's a concept about time travel, society and romance, the playing is absolutely phenomenal and dare i say it again, it is the finest album in the Eloy catalogue.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

Brightblack Morning Light - Motion To Rejoin [2008]

Naybob Shineywater and partner Rachael Hughes of New Mexico churn out a lovely brand of mellow psychedelic rock under the name Brightblack Morning Light. This is their second release and suprisingly enough went right under the radar in 08. Backlit by those awesome sounding muted 70s keyboard noodles, wafty woodwinds and layers of hazy vocals, Motion To Rejoin burns slow from start to finish.

Naybob and Rachael (who has taken on the nickname Raybob) recorded this entire piece in their own solar powered place, meaning the duo could only record when the sun was out. What they have created is nothing short of an amazing and relaxing atmosphere filled with flutters of lazy saxaphone exhalants and lightly swung beats all beautifully layered over the incredibly spiritual and new-agey lyrics.

Give in to this gem, and you'll never know where the time went.


Friday, January 2, 2009

Ardo Dombec - Ardo Dombec [1971]

Anyone who picked up the "Heavy Christmas" compilation last week might recognise this fantastic Bluesy/Jazz Prog German group. Unfortunetly enough not much is known about them. Their arrangements are upbeat and bright, yet the lyrics are rather dark and cynical in contrast. They differ from other folk-blues-fusion-hard rock bands of the same era by the presence of the saxophone arrangements which remain pretty structured, sometimes sounding like Out of Focus or even the Dutch fusion band Solution.

The drums and bass are often very fast, rhythmic and complex, flirting with fusion elements. Many flute parts a la Jethro Tull add some interesting variety; the track with the very pleasant visceral harmonica exhibition also shows how versatile the members can be. The music is quite addictive, disciplined and structured.

A welcomed German oddity!


Octopus - The Boat of Thoughts [1976]

Who likes Camel in nyar?

First of all, don't get confused. There are a bunch of shitty metal bands with the same name. These Germans however, are amazing. The mellotron and guitar work on this album is fantastic, and even sounds incredibly similar to Camel at times. Lead vocalist Jennifer Hensel does have a rather gruff alto voice that won’t be to all tastes, but it does suit the music very well. For comparisons sake, imagine a cross between Janis Joplin (without the grit) and Jennie Hahn from Babe Ruth.

Consider this a warning: if you don't "do" female vocals you might want to look elsewhere. If however, you "do" high energy prog with a mean hard rock edge, look no further! The instrumental passages are the high points here, and believe you me, they are oh so tasty!


Happy New Year + Favourites of 2008!

First of all, i hope all my readers had a fantastic christmas & new year break. 2009.. damn, it's like 1999 but.. ten years later. Oh boy how time flies. Unlike a lot of other people, i actually thought 2008 was a damn fine year in music. It introduced me to a handful of great new groups and artists including Fleet Foxes, Black Mountain, Crystal Antlers, Bon Iver & Ancestors, just to name a few. Below you will find a list of my favourite albums (in no particular order) from the year that was, i might even get around to uploading some of them soon.

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes
Black Mountain - In The Future
Opeth - Watershed
East of the Wall - Farmers Almanac
Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
Equus - Eutheria
Hush Arbors - Hush Arbors
Wolf Parade - At Mount Zoomer
Elephant9 - Dodovoodoo
Woven Hand - Ten Stones
The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
Witch - Paralyzed
Earth - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull
Crystal Antlers - Crystal Antlers EP
Enslaved - Vertebrae
Brightblack Morning Light - Motion To Rejoin
Dead Meadow - Old Growth
Sahg - II
Ane Brun - Changing of the Seasons
Steven Wilson - Insurgentes
Dungen - 4
Ebu Gogo - Worlds
Ancestors - Neptune With Fire
The Big Sleep - Sleep Forever
One Day As A Lion - One Day As A Lion
Birds and Buildings - Bantom To Behemoth
Beck - Modern Guilt
Sumner Mckane - What A Great Place To Be
Ocoai - Breatherman
The American Dollar - A Memory Stream
Anna Ternheim - Leaving On a Mayday
Balmorhea - Rivers Arms
Mogwai - The Hawk is Howling
Bar Kokhba - Lucifer: Book of Angels Volume I

Bring on 2009! I can't wait to hear the new Black Bonzo, and i'm also very curious to see what the new Alice in Chains record will be like with that butt pipe Duvall taking over lead vocals. Jerry is the man, and i trust he won't sell us short!