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Steve Hackett – Wolflight

Wolflight Cover

Label: InsideOut Music: Two Clear Vinyl LPs (with CD IOMSECD 417)

Time: About 65 minutes with bonus material (Other formats available)

LP 1: Side 1: Out of Body, Wolflight, Love Song to a Vampire; Side 2: The Wheel’s Turning, Corycian Fire, Earthshine, Loving Sea

LP 2: Side 1: Black Thunder, Dust and Dreams, Heart Song; Side 2: (Extra Tracks) Pneuma, Midnight Sun (with Todmobile), Caress (on LP 2, but not the enclosed CD)

Website: http://www.hackettsongs.com/index.html  Shop: http://hackettsongs.sandbaghq.com/

After a pair of tremendously successful Genesis Revisited tours in Europe, UK, Japan and the US (with many sold out concerts and shows added due to demand), I’m thrilled that Steve Hackett is back again creating new music.  He did the historic material from his Genesis era a worthy justice, clearly an important part of his life (and heck, mine too) and career, and some of that material will always be part of his live shows, but clearly it was time to move on to new things.

I was fortunate to have a chance to hear a preview of Wolflight in Steve Hackett’s studio in the autumn of 2014 and my immediate impression then was that the music is incredibly cinematic—vibrant sound and images in the tales unfolding in the music, whether vocal or instrumental.  The music is drawn from experiences, places visited, dreams, nightmares, ancient history and inspired by love.  I sense that there is still even a bit of delicately blended (and not yet completely written) autobiographical experiences.

Wolflight is an album of contrasts, from broad filmic passages, some briefly anthemic, to moments of delicate beauty.  There is no formula being rehashed from his earlier work, but some elements that are pleasantly familiar are mixed with the inventiveness and varied regional instrumentation that I have come to appreciate in Hackett’s work throughout his oeuvre.  Steve’s primary collaborators continue to be keyboardist Roger King and his wife Jo Hackett, along with live show bandmates and production team: Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Nick Beggs, Amanda Lehmann, Benedict Fenner and others.

Hackett 111314 019aOut of Body is the eerie wolf-howl call and then energetic overture to the album, a brief taste of what’s to come.  Title track, Wolflight opens gently, setting a scene of calm, but the challenges of the tale are expressed in orchestral and sharp-edged guitar solos in contrast with the acoustic twelve-string verses—a powerful title track that has proven to adhere well in my memory, despite the complexity of the piece.  In addition to the contrast of sound there is also the irony of subject—that of pleasure in pain and the attraction of potential danger, which is the exploration of Love Song to a Vampire with Hackett’s hushed verses (almost a lullaby), powerful refrains and soulful peregrinations on his Les Paul guitar.

The Wheel’s Turning revisits some of the sights and sounds of works as far back as the album Please Don’t Touch—carnivals of inspiration and a bit of time-travel (with shades of his Squackett collaboration with Chris Squire in the marvelous song from the album A Life Within a Day, Divided Self).  At first there’s the basic song then orchestral moves to a devilish romp with a brief homage to The Air Conditioned Nightmare (from the album Cured) and then his album Blues With a Feeling before returning to strains of Bach and the memory of that distant carnival.  Creating a strong sense of place, Corycian Fire, after a gentle opening, Hackett uses his highly processed vocals like an instrument to accompany the orchestral, choral and regional instruments in exploring the history of an ancient underworld, which has some similarities to his earlier and less adorned instrumental Steppes (from the album Defector for those who have listened since the early days).  Earthshine and Loving Sea are a respite from the album’s vigorous beginnings (an intermission similar to the days of changing a film reel in a theater).  Earthshine, a classical guitar fantasy merges into the joyful twelve-string and vocal harmonies of Loving Sea, sailing freely.

Wolflight Spinning

Black Thunder rumbles with raw emotion; part history and part social commentary on slavery and civil rights struggles of Martin Luther King with an homage (in the liner notes) to Richie Havens (and his well-known song Freedom) who worked with Hackett on his second solo album.  Dust and Dreams is at first a vamp of languid movements and drifting mirages that adds layers and builds to portray scenes of divergent impressions and ultimately it’s resolved in a returning to the comfort of Heart Song, dedicated to Hackett’s wife and creative partner Jo.

The bonus material on side 4 of the LPs (two solo guitar tracks on either side of a collaboration with the Icelandic band Todmobile) fits quite well with the overall album.  Pneuma (translates as breath, soul and spirit) is a subdued rumination, a calming re-centering of sorts.  Midnight Sun is powerful, melodic and pleasing in its chord structure and rhythms.  Caress gently closes the album (which is on the LP, but not the CD).

Despite the sharp contrasts in the instrumentation and sources of inspiration, Wolflight is a very cohesive album, which upon a few listens will become deeply and solidly embedded in the canon of Hackett’s work.  The Steve Hackett Band will be celebrating his 40 year solo career with a tour in 2015, Acolyte to Wolflight.  I hope to attend a show (but tickets sell quickly!) and I urge readers to get tickets to a show, which will certainly be quite a visual and aural experience, as all of Steve Hackett’s concerts have been since the late 1970s.

Seeing John Edginton’s recent documentary Genesis: Sum of the Partsone might be left with the impression that after Steve Hackett left Genesis in 1977 he went on to do a few minor projects and then disappeared into the ether.  On the contrary, after his highly innovative work with Genesis during the tremendously creative period from 1971 to 1977, Hackett has had a varied and successful solo career of nearly 40 years with as many albums, including some well-known collaborations, songs in international charts (Wolflight is in the UK charts, as I write this), and a faithful legion of fans who are spreading his work to a new generation of listeners.

If anything, Steve Hackett is more vital and relevant than ever with new-found and ever-growing energy that belies the span of his career—continuing to blaze new frontiers in music and live shows.


Chris Jamison – Lovecraft

lovecraft-coverfinal

Future Spin Productions CD – Time: 38:26 – Release Date: March 31, 2015

Available at: http://www.chrisjamisonmusic.com/

Other Links: http://chrisjamison.bandcamp.com & https://soundcloud.com/chrisjamisonmusic

Tracks: 1) Always, 2) Blue Melody, 3) Juniper Blues, 4) What About Tomorrow, 5) Pedernal, 6) The Mockingbird Song, 7) Waves Of The Wind, 8) Roadside Bar, 9) Old 81

When first meeting some folks, it often takes time to get to know them.  It might take months or even years until an acquaintance becomes a friend.  For reasons that can’t often be explained, sometimes with a certain person or people, there’s a sense of ease or a bond and it just seems right from the start, and that’s how Chris Jamison’s forthcoming album Lovecraft feels and sounds to me.

 

Formerly of Texas, Jamison now lives with his young family in Arizona and he has self-produced four previous albums, and contrary to my normal listening preparations, I didn’t listen to any of his previous work, initially.  There is a grounded familiarity in Lovecraft, like being at a favorite place or in a well-worn cherished piece of clothing, and even if a song’s subject is somewhat melancholy there’s a comfort in it that brings some hope for better things ahead.  The album is tastefully humble and original in many ways, yet with a lilt of roots, blues and country, and it does kick-up some dirt too.  Most of the songs are quickly memorable, but the substance is far more than just catchy hooks.

 

As much as I try to resist comparisons, it’s clear that there’s an homage to some musicians reaching back into the 1970s (instrumentation, vocals and studio vibe) like Jackson Browne of the Running on Empty era and earlier as well as the timing and presence of vocals in earlier works of Van Morrison.  It’s also clear that Jamison not only cares about the songs and instrumentation, but how the recording sounds, and he sought Sam Kassirer for the mixing who has worked with Josh Ritter, as well as mastering by Scott Hull of Master Disk in New York, who has worked with many well-known musicians.  Click on the photo below to view other album credits and musicians.

lovecraft-insideleft(take 2)

The album opens with Always, which has a steady awakening beat that features organ and electric guitar with Jamison’s strong vocals, yet the vocals don’t demand attention.  There are reflective and slow-swinging moments with languid electric guitar or piano as in Blue Melody and Waves Of The Wind, and whether the vocals are slightly saturated or clean, they are clear, but not over-powering.  The meditative slow-dance Juniper Blues channels some of Vince Gill’s work from The Reason Why album (These Days tetralogy); the sweet memories that still haunt, to paraphrase the lyrics.  Jamison also plays a bit with a sense of time, starting What About Tomorrow with sounds reminiscent of an old radio tuning into a memory and discussions of what could have been.  The song’s construction evokes the instrumentation of Al Stewart’s On The Border with Sebastian Cure’s guitar solo paralleling Peter White’s solo in Border.

In addition to telling stories, Jamison also remembers places, as in Pedernal, which I believe is the northern New Mexico mesa (Cerro Pedernal) that Georgia O’Keefe used as an occasional subject for her paintings.  The piece is at first instrumental, ambient and contemplative, then the vocals blend with the cello, vibes and organ, it’s a humble entreaty to listen, “May I sing you a song…”  The Mockingbird Song is an observation and appreciation with a soft spacious opening, almost trance-inducing.  It’s of chasing dreams, with a strong vocal and is reminiscent of Josh Ritter’s The Temptation of Adam, but more hopeful.  Mockingbird is an elegant song, and the harp along with hushed organ and vocals are just…perfect.  Another place, real or imagined is the intimate Roadside Bar with piano, percussion and the feeling of enjoyment and jamming with friends who sing along.  The album closes with the reflective, visual and optimistic returning depicted in Old 81.

 

So much music (or what passes for it) these days seems synthetic and lacking an authenticity that pushing the “SKIP” button on a CD or MP3 player might be a better option than wasting the precious time to be inundated by sound that is over-processed with samples and pitch-correction.  As much as I seek music that is more experimental and somewhat edgy, I also enjoy and have a deep respect for songwriters who take great care to compose and record with understated yet effective arrangements and skillful musicianship.

This album is the real deal and it’s a great companion for a road trip too.  Hit “REPLAY.”

Chris Jamison - Live

Photo of Chris Jamison by Lillian Reid

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This is a solicited review


Zammuto – Anchor

trr227-233x233  trr227_deluxe

 

 

 

 

 

 

Temporary Residence TRR 227 LP (CD and D/L) Time: About 39 Minutes for 11 LP Tracks

Artist: http://www.zammutosound.com/ Label: http://temporaryresidence.com/

1) Good Graces 2) Great Equator 3) Hegemony 4) Henry Lee (Trad) 5) Need Some Sun 6) Don’t Be A Tool 7) Electricant 8) IO 9) Stop Counting 10) Sinker 11) Your Time 12) Codebreaker* Bonus on Deluxe LP download with silkscreened cover

zammuto-studio-real-1Many scientists have labs and equipment, and there are parallels between science and the creation of music.  Discovery and creativity take hard work, inspiration and many tools—some of the work is also drudgery and can take a long time to complete.  Some experiments succeed and some don’t, but research presses on.

Nick Zammuto’s lab is in Vermont and while Zammuto’s current work is more accessible and song-oriented than work of his previous collaboration with Paul de Jong (The Books), Nick and his bandmates are still looking for music and inspiration in unexpected places (sometimes in quirky infomercial videos, physical inventions, admonitions from a parent and odd audio samples).  Sounds are discovered, altered, created and spun into a fabric of song, and more often than not the results are downright fun.

It took about a year from the very successful IndieGoGo campaign to the release of Anchor, but along the way Nick Zammuto kept backers well informed on progress and entrusted early previews of the final tracks, along with the background for inspiration and in-depth technical information on how many of the sounds were developed.  The resulting album varies from calming drones to chest pounding beats along with idiosyncratic melodic turns and spirited lyrics.  Many of the tracks are based around odd rhythms, some created with scratches deliberately made on LPs at planned intervals.

scratchAlthough I’m not always an advocate of loud music, I think this album better with the volume knob UP—it’s often an absolute romp.  Most of the music is also well suited to their live shows, where Nick Zammuto and his bandmates know how to have a good time, often with accompanying videos.  I can attest it’s also a great album for driving (at safe lower volumes!).  In general, I find this album to be more reserved (almost cautious, at times) compared than their first.

After Good Graces eases-in, the more dynamic tracks like Great Equator, Hegemony, Need Some Sun, Electricant and the aggressively percussive IO give the album its verve.  Anchor also has its quieter and more drone oriented moments, and can be quite introspective at times, as in Henry Lee, Stop Counting, Your Time and the acoustic percussion and guitar swells of Sinker.  The bonus track Codebreaker is a syncopated keyboard, guitar arpeggio and electronic percussion pattern study.

I think my only criticism of Anchor is that Zammuto might consider exploring some longer form works.  Peculiar and energetic always work for me.

TRR227_ColoredVinyl_WEB

The limited edition deluxe LP with silkscreen print cover

 

Photos are courtesy of Zammuto’s website, but I participated in the campaign and got myself a deluxe LP.


Hiss Golden Messenger – Lateness of Dancers

HGM Lateness of Dancers

Merge Records MRG 523 LP CD FLAC and MP3 Time: About 43 minutes

1) Lucia 2) Saturday’s Song 3) Mahogany Dread 4) Day O Day (A Love So Free) 5) Lateness of Dancers 6) I’m A Raven (Shake Children) 7) Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses) 8) Southern Grammar 9) Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song) 10) Drum

Artist Information http://www.mergerecords.com/hiss-golden-messenger Samples: http://www.mergerecords.com/songmgr/radio.php?album=60195&song=61865

Saturday’s Song:

I got to know Hiss Golden Messenger’s (M. C. Taylor) music after perusing the online catalog of Tompkins Square, where I had purchased William Tyler’s solo album Behold The Spirit (prior to his Merge Records release Impossible Truth).  I ordered the HGM album Poor Moon, and that was all it took for me to go off hunting for more, which led me to his 2013 album Haw (on Paradise of Bachelors) and ultimately to his first complete album Bad Debt, recorded in his kitchen shortly after the birth of his son in 2009.  There are overtones of concern in that album, since it was created as the global economic crisis was hitting financial markets and was having tangible effects on people.  It took Bad Debt a long time to see the light of day due to a warehouse fire during the London riots a few years back—most of the original CDs were lost.  Amanda Petrusich has a brief essay about Taylor at the Merge Records link above, and it will give further insight on the roots of his music and her impressions.

Lateness of Dancers is quieter and a bit slower in pace compared to Haw and the recording is more intimate, even introspective with some of the qualities of Bad Debt.  It includes some musicians from the previous albums along with primary collaborator Scott Hirsch (most often on electric and bass guitars) and William Tyler.  Taylor’s songs appear to be largely personal self-reflections, laments on vulnerability, restrained joy, explorations of faith and optimism.  This album sounds to me like it’s rooted in the early to mid-1970s in sound.

Taylor’s voice is at times like a melodic version of Bob Dylan as on Lucia, which has a gentle sway to it (as do other songs on the album).  I immediately felt like I was back in the early 1970s during Saturday’s Song (a time when I listened to albums for hours on end).  Saturday has a Jackson Browne Doctor My Eyes vibe to it and is instantly familiar and comfortable.  The spirit of Mick Fleetwood was present for the back beat of Mahogany Dread along with an early incarnation of Fleetwood Mac (for those of us old enough to remember!).  No doubt, Taylor’s son’s voice opens Day O Day (A Love So Free) with his self-assured proclamation (present in younger children) of the song’s title.  It’s quiet and contemplative and the subtitle gradually becomes an incantation of joy.  Lateness of Dancers is one of the more serious sounding tracks on the album, the other being Chapter & Verse (Ione’s Song), which is revealing and very contemplative.  I’m a Raven (Shake Children) growls with a heavy beat and is a contrast to the slow-dance quality of Black Dog Wind (Rose of Roses)Southern Grammar channels a gentler (yet still funky) version of Lowell George and Little Feat of the Dixie Chicken era (oh, how I miss Lowell George).

The album ends with a lightly orchestrated version of Drum (that first appeared on Bad Debt) and it has the spirit of a recessional, and it sounds hopeful “I’ll rise in the morning, take the good news and carry it away…”  Lateness of Dancers is good news indeed, and it seems like Hiss Golden Messenger has landed at a good spot with Merge, where his work will hopefully get to a wider audience, and they will let M. C. Taylor continue unencumbered to do what he does best: write thoughtful and beautifully crafted songs.


Nick Magnus – n’monix

n'monix cover

EANTCD 1032 – Esoteric Antenna (Cherry Red Records) – Time: 46:54

Tracks: 1) Time, 2) Memory, 3) Kombat Kid, 4) Headcase, 5) Eminent Victorians, 6) Broken, 7) Shadowland, 8) Entropy

Nick Magnus – Website: http://www.magnus-music.com/ Discography: http://www.magnus-music.com/discography.htm Solo Albums: http://www.magnus-music.com/solo_albums.htm

Record Label: http://www.esotericrecordings.com/antenna.html & http://www.cherryred.co.uk/

Other music genres aside, I posit that many fans of Progressive Rock (Progressive Metal and other sub-genres included) have fairly high expectations when anticipating the release of an album by a favorite artist or band. The hope is perhaps for certain sounds and instrumentation—in a way, holding onto the past, the memories. I’m certainly guilty of that (I want Mellotrons, Les Pauls, E-bows and bass pedals), but I also hope for variants and invention in addition to complicated rhythms and key signatures that I associate with Prog Rock.

Music can trigger memories; hear a song and it can take one back to a long distant place and time, instantly.  My memory of Nick’s work goes back to the early days of the Steve Hackett Band, in the late 1970s through the 1980s, and I certainly remember standing up front at more than a few venues close to the stage, marveling at Nick using his two (four?!) hands, feet and even elbows at times to assist with bringing Steve Hackett’s early work to life (he was a large part of the sound and technology of that era…and the transition from the analog to digital era in instrumentation and recording technology). Then, of course, I have enjoyed his solo work beginning with Straight On Til Morning from 1993.

I’ve heard some recent Prog Rock albums (even albums that I like) where the artist felt it necessary to include frequent derivative historical references and instrumentation or phrasing to other artist’s albums, but Magnus resists this temptation and takes n’monix in unexpected directions and makes it his own. The album does include many new friends as well as old; a connection to the past while looking to the future: Steve Hackett, Tony Patterson, Tim Bowness, Pete Hicks, Rob Townsend, James Reeves, Kate Faber and Andy Neve. Once again, long time collaborator, Dick Foster delivers sharp, witty and poignant lyrics that combine so well with the music.

n’monix is social commentary, history, reality and an observation of the results of technological advancements and the effects they have on us all. The more information available, the more to process, the more to remember and as a result we need devices to cope, mnemonics of many types. And curiously, even with the most tragic and unjust, we humans have such short memories; history is bound to repeat itself, it sadly becomes inevitable. We are victims of our own creations.  The album is also about loss on many levels.

Time is the allegro of the symphony or the overture to the opera and it’s aggressive with firm vocals by Tony Patterson (and it will give your audio equipment a workout). By contrast (but very much in keeping with the symphonic reference) Memory is an adagio (slower tempo) waltz of sorts, which shifts from a somewhat shrouded soprano solo to broad choral treatment. Kombat Kid is an allegory. It is part march, part recitative and a story of consumption, manipulation and obsession…a reminder to step away from the keyboard or game controller now and then. Headcase is the only track on the album that even vaguely includes an homage…in this case (it seems to me!) to Gentle Giant…with quirky rhythms and lyrics—and memory games in the lyrics. Eminent Victorians is the most fantastical of the pieces on the album (with a brilliant animated video to accompany and vocals by the carnival “barker” Pete Hicks), and traces the absurdity of the served and servants, the sacrifices of the young and poor for the glory of an Empire and upper class; a familiar theme even today as income gaps grow ever wider and those less fortunate suffer even more.  EV also includes prominent and most welcomed solos by Steve Hackett.

Broken is a heartbreaking lament with remarkable and emotional soprano saxophone solos by Rob Townsend (I have to admit that I had quite an unexpected emotional reaction to the track). Reality hits in the mournful resignation and loss of Shadowland and includes choral treatments and a stark guitar solo again from Steve Hackett. Some of the original themes return in the opening of the final track Entropy, an acceptance of reality and the unknown possibilities. I am certain that I have missed some of the literary, mystical and historical references…for now.

n'monix_nick

Although the subject matter of this album can be rather daunting, I find it to be somewhat lighter in spirit at times and more musical compared to Nick’s brilliant previous album Children of Another God. n’monix is impeccably arranged and orchestrated, and dances on the edge of being symphonic and operatic while including original and accessible songwriting. This is certainly not an album that collapses under the weight of a Prog Rock cliché, in fact, just the opposite–it brings a fresh relevance and viewpoint to the genre.


Steve Hackett Band – Scottish Rite Auditorium

 

032814 Hackett Band 3

We were fortunate to be in the audience for both the afternoon soundcheck and evening’s concert on Friday night March 28, 2014 in Collingswood, New Jersey.  We had seats at the head of the mezzanine and also had a chance to see sound engineer Ben Fenner and lighting engineer “Tigger” perform their magic–they’re on their toes the entire evening!  I have a photo of the set list, but I won’t give it away entirely, but rest assured that there are minor changes each evening according to those who attended the Thursday show.  The added songs last night included: Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Lilywhite Lilith, The Knife (from the Ant Phillips days!) and many other favorites from the early to mid 1970s.  The Scottish Rite Auditorium is part of Masonic arts complex and in the interior of the building has an eery Moorish feel to it, so the music was appropriate, if not haunting at times.

If you haven’t gotten your tickets yet for this “Genesis Extended” Tour, do so before the ship sails (as in The Cruise To The Edge) and then the band is off for a European tour.  More information here: http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

Thank you, as always to the Band (Steve Hackett, Roger King, Gary O’Toole, Rob Townsend, Nad Sylvan and Nick Beggs) as well as their fabulous crew, tour manager and Jo Hackett.

More photos!

032814 Watcher032814 Steve Gary 032814 Roger Steve Gary 032814 Hackett Band 032814 Hackett Band 2 032814 Carpet032814 The Knife 032814 The Knife 3 032814 The Knife 2032814 The Knife 4032814 Hackett Band Goodbye CWLast night’s encore opened with Watcher of the Skies, always a favorite of mine!032814 Roger Watcher Edit

All Photos are copyright 2014 by wajobu, please do not use without permission and credit–thank you.

 


Review: John Scofield – Überjam Deux

JSUD

CD: Emarcy B0018605-02 Time: About 62 minutes www.johnscofield.com

Band: John Scofield: Guitar, Avi Bortnick: Guitar and Samples, Andy Hess: Bass, Adam Deitch: Drums, Louis Cato: Drums, Special Guest: John Medeski: Organ, Wurlitzer and Mellotron

Tracks: Camelus, Boogie Stupid, Endless Summer, Dub Dub, Cracked Ice, Al Green Song, Snake Dance, Scotown, Torero, Curtis Knew, Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely

Between his solo and collaborative work, John Scofield has appeared on more than a hundred albums since the 1970s (including his early work with Miles Davis).  His first Überjam album was released in 2002.  As with the first album, Scofield moves all around and in between music genres, Jazz, Rock, Blues and Funk.  Many of the tracks on Überjam Deux start with a sound or rhythm sample and the quartet (switching between drummers Adam Deitch and Louis Cato) build a groove and just chill there or get their funk-on.  My two favorite tracks are Boogie Stupid (which reminds me of Roy Buchanan’s work) and one of the five tracks with John Medeski Curtis Knew, where Medeski brilliantly has his way with a Mellotron—just delicious.  In recent years I’ve greatly enjoyed Scofield’s collaborative work with Medeski, Martin & Wood.   Überjam Deux is a joyful album and I can’t help but think that John Scofield was sending positive vibes to his son Evan during the recording of this album earlier this year (Evan died far, far too young in July, from a rare form of cancer).  A bitter-sweet album, yet excellent for a road trip or listening at home.

Rest in Peace, Evan.

More on the album in this video

 

Curtis Knew

 


Review: Yellowbirds – Songs From The Vanished Frontier

Yellowbirds SFTVF

The Royal Potato Family – RPF 1312 – LP, CD, Digital – About 35 Minutes

http://royalpotatofamily.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/YellowbirdsMusic

Songs: Side A: Stop Tonight, Mean Maybe, Love Stories, Young Men Promise, The Ceiling Side B: The Vanished Frontier, Julian, For Girls Who Love To Sing, What’s Out There

Sam Cohen: Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Organ; Annie Nero: Vocals; Brian Kantor: Drums, Percussion, Vocals; Josh Kaufman: Guitar, Organ, Vocals

Something different…and even better it has an excellent sleeve design and is available in white vinyl…

 

The new Yellowbirds album is: mysterious, drifting, lush, orchestrated, cheerful, danceable, hopeful, syncopated, witty, retro, autoharpy (I know, not a word, but very 10cc*), uplifting, sonorous, jangly, toe-tapping, catchy, spirited, amorous, languid, romantic, edgy, bathed in reverb, fuzzy, harmonious, bluesy, intimate, ragged, orchestral, stark, melancholy, reflective, sad (but wait!), buoyant, lively, driving, dramatic, thoughtful, inviting, tuneful, lyrical, spacey, philosophical and inventively melodic.

I love the combinations of organ, guitars, bells, zither, Mellotron, strings, bass-lines, and the (at times) witty vocals.  Yellowbirds’ last album, The Color was exceptional, but this album is even better.  Deftly crafted songs, and an supportive record label that takes care of its customers.

Buy it.

 

 

*Autoharpyhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zW2wmna2sg&feature=youtu.be&t=4m18s


Review: Berserk! (Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari and Lorenzo Feliciati)

BERSERK_600600_72DPI

RareNoise Records CD RNR031 Time: 49:41 (vinyl soon and hi-res digital)

http://www.rarenoiserecords.com/berserk and www.facebook.com/berserkband

Tracks: 1) Macabre Dance, 2) Fetal Claustrophobia, 3) Blow, 4) Not Dead, 5) Clairvoyance, 6) First, 7) Dream Made Of Wind, 8) Wait Until Dark, 9) Latent Prints, 10) Dream Made Of Water

Band: Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari (Voice, Electronics, Organ, Guitar) and Lorenzo Feliciati (Electric and Upright Bass) with: Gianluca Petrella: Trombone & Effects (tracks 1,2,4,5,7,10), Fabrizio Puglisi: Piano & ARP Odyssey (6,8,9), Jamie Saft: Keyboards (1,2,9), Eivind Aarset: Guitars (3,4,7,9,10), Sandro Satta: Alto Sax (3,9), Cristiano Calcagnile: Drums & Effects (4,5), Pat Mastelotto: Drums & Effects (6,8,9), Simone Cavina: Drums (1,2)

Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari aka LEF and Lorenzo Feliciati form the core of Berserk!, along with some other familiar names in the RareNoiseRecords stable, including Feliciati’s fellow Naked Truth bandmate Pat Mastelotto.

We all need a venting catharsis now and then—some folks resort to primal scream therapy, but generally I’ll pick music to assist with exorcising my darkened bilious tendencies.  The new self-titled album from Berserk! seems like an effective cure for those intractable days when the pile gets too deep and the unrelenting Myth of Sisyphus comes to mind.  Despite the band and album moniker, there is a broad mix of dynamics in the album and it’s marked by many (nearly neck-snapping) contrasts in sound and rhythm.

Berserk! isn’t a broad spectrum motoric assault on the senses, but it deftly selects its points of release, building like a suspense thriller with the rage boiling over every so often.  The album also teases and mocks (from the gently maniacal whistling in the opener Macabre Dance to the background telephone ringing in Fetal Claustrophobia…yes, I turned my head to see if my phone was ringing!).  There’s also a brief moment of saxy playfulness (albeit dark) in the reflective interlude Blow before entering the backstreets and dark alleys of Not Dead (shades of the growling Tom Waits and Sparklehorse duet Dog Door from the 2001 album It’s A Wonderful Life) with raspy voices and clusters of percussion pushing against an unyielding darkness.

 

Feliciati’s bass work throughout the album is reminiscent of Percy Jones’s work with Brand X, particularly the earlier freer-form improvised and less commercial version of “The X”.  The aggressive horns, meandering piano, fast-changing rhythms and moods (as in Fetal Claustrophobia) also remind me a great deal of one of my favorite King Crimson albums, Lizard (under-appreciated until Steven Wilson remastered it with Robert Fripp).  The treatment of Gianluca Petrella’s horns throughout much of the album often sounds like the thundering Mellotron horns used in Lizard.  The sharp inventive contrasts in instrumentation also remind me of Frank Zappa and early albums by Godley and Creme (as in the albums L and Freeze Frame).  Yet, there’s little humor in Berserk!—the focus is strictly business.

The middle portion of the album is furtive and contemplative in spirit (like the tracks Clairvoyance and First) and eventually LEF’s vocals (sung here, not spoken) break through, channeling John Wetton.  Note: Don’t forget to listen for R2D2.  There’s a brief pause (the calm before the storm?) with ethereal atmospherics and horn work in Dream Made Of Wind before the closing section of the album begins with a tender solo piano largo and transition to a massed rhythmic vocal and ultimately a full band assault in Wait Until Dark leading into an alto sax ensemble of Latent Prints (the feeling of KC’s Lizard returns) and moves into a roaring full-clustered rip.  The album closes with the ominously thunderous and raging vocal domination of Dream Made Of Water—there’s the Berserk!

Had a tough day in the trenches? Hold the rage at-bay (warn the neighbors, shut the doors and turn up the amp) and have a listen.  I think you’ll feel better.

LEF_FELLorenzo Feliciati and Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari – Courtesy of RareNoiseRecords

****

This is a solicited review.


Revisiting Old Friends and Meeting New

AP PPAP1-4

Anthony Phillips: http://www.anthonyphillips.co.uk/

Ant’s friend and illustrator Peter Cross: http://petercrossart.com/

Ant’s (too occasional) collaborator Enrique Berro Garcia: http://quiqueberro.com/

Although he was 18 when he departed from the band Genesis in 1970, many still associate Ant Phillips almost exclusively with that band (despite his approximately 40 commercially released solo albums and collaborations since 1970 in addition to his vast output of library music compositions and commission work).  I have been very fortunate over the years to acquire all of these albums, and each time I place one of Ant’s albums on my turntable or a CD player his music takes me to another place and time (the ups and downs of a life).  Ant’s music has been a big part of my life and I owe a great deal of my own creative work to being inspired by his.  I think Ant said it best on his second Private Parts and Pieces album Back To The Pavilion (released in 1980): “This album is dedicated to all those who still champion the “old fashioned” ideas of beauty, lyricism and grandeur in art against the tide of cynical intellectualism and dissonance.”  Many of Ant’s earlier albums are now being completely remastered (from the source tapes) and reissued (often in double CD releases).

Ant and Quique from PP&PPIII – Antiques: Old Wives Tales

 

Also spinning these days are albums by:

ThreeMetreDayCN

Three Metre Day – Coasting Notes

http://www.threemetreday.com/

I have a ceramic artist friend (Hayne Bayless at Sideways Studios) to thank for getting me to these folks (often the best music comes from referrals by friends).  At times their music is somewhat mournful, but always reflective and passionate—this trio from Canada is Michelle Willis, Hugh Marsh and Don Rooke with guest appearances by bassist David Piltch and drums by Davide Direnzo.  The album is up-close, largely acoustic in instrumentation and delightfully musical.

 

Rhian Sheehan SFE

Rhian Sheehan – Stories From Elsewhere

http://www.rhiansheehan.com/

At times the music is delicate and others it’s intense, but it’s always inventive and beautifully recorded.  Rhian Sheehan is from New Zealand and has released 7 albums under his name as well as appeared on many compilations and soundtracks.

 

 

I&WGhost

Iron and Wine – Ghost on Ghost

http://www.ironandwine.com/

I sometimes find Samuel Beam’s work to be a bit too intense and serious, but his latest album is open, hopeful and at times playful.  The first single Joy is beautiful.

 

Wire CBU

Wire – Change Becomes Us

http://www.pinkflag.com/

I kind of lost touch with Wire after their albums Pink Flag and Chairs Missing, but I rediscovered their more recent albums when I updated my original recordings with CD reissues.  If this new album sounds a bit like it comes from the late 1970s and early 1980s post punk era it’s because many of the songs were written back then, and haven’t seen the light of day until now.  The recordings and production are full, with great clarity and this album just makes me want to turn up the amplifiers.

You can listen to the entire album here: https://soundcloud.com/wirehq/sets/change-becomes-us

MM Sk

Montt Mardié – Skaizerkite

Record Label: http://hybr.is/

David Olof Peter Pagmar has taken many identities and until a few years ago he was Montt Mardié (his website is now defunct) and he has since moved on to new projects, but in early 2009 this was his album of excellent pop tunes and ballads—beautifully recorded and produced.  The entire album can be streamed here:

 

Jonas Munk SFB

Jonas Munk – Searching For Bill (Original Soundtrack)

Jonas Munk has released many great albums and collaborations as Manual and more recently as Billow Observatory, but this is his first soundtrack.  The documentary Searching For Bill is Danish director Jonas Poher Rasmussen’s debut and it explores the meaning of life for those living on the edge of American society.  It’s a sensitive and contemplative soundtrack.

 

Many of these albums are available directly from the artists’ websites or at online merchants like http://darla.com/

*****

Happy Listening and Spring (finally)!


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