Mitko Shterev (74)
Diana Express (76)
Prayer For Rain (79)
Golden Apple (83)
Diana Express 5 (85)
Four Riders Of The Apocalypse (77, released in 92), Dice (78)
They did one self-titled album, which quickly went into oblivion and out of print. This is perhaps the most "typically progressive" Swedish band that has ever existed. Quite good instrumentally, actually. In their best moments they were a little Gentle Giant like, in their worst they were quite sleep-inducing.
Excellent symphonic-rock band from Sweden. Their earliest album Four Riders Of The Apocalypse contains 4 long symphonic trax and is entirely instrumental. Dice features a vocalist, is a little more lively, and sports a good sense of humor. Both are great and highly recommended.
Dice were a Swedish band whose self-titled release, issued only in Japan, quickly sold out. It was their only known release until the discovery of the material that now appears on Four Riders Of The Apocalypse. The music is squarely in the symphonic vein, dominated by keyboards, and washes of Mellotron sounds. Howver, Dice are a bit more adventurous musically, in the spirit of Gentle Giant, and combine that element into the mixture. The music is, in the words of guitarist Orjan Strandberg .".. an instrumental symphonic rock piece, sort of in a 'concerto' form with 3 - 4 movements ...," and that is a very accurate description. With a variety of moods, a concept, and passages with shifting time signatures, this should appeal to those who like the melodic prog rock of the seventies.
Dice are a Swedish symphonic five piece band who existed in the late '70s. The first and only release while they were together is their eponymous release from 1978. Overall, their sound is closest to Yes and Gentle Giant, with bits of Focus and maybe a hint of the Canterbury scene. Dice contains four short songs (3-8 minutes) plus the obligatory side long suite. One of the short songs, "Utopian Suntan," is a sarcastic piece about the joys of nuclear radiation. The others are more "serious" symphonic works though the music in "Utopian Sunshine" is nothing to sneeze at. Overall, this is a pretty decent album though the vocals could be better. The music is very well played but the writing isn't the strongest. Only Dice know why, but their true masterpiece, Four Riders of the Apocalypse, never saw daylight until its release on CD in 1992. Recorded in 1977, before their "first" album, Four Riders is an instrumental tour de force. The music changes constantly and never gets boring, moving from slow organ builds to fluid synth lines. The same influences are at work but the writing is stronger and there are no vocals. Why the scrapped this one, we'll never know. Excellent and dynamic music. Start with Four Riders... if you can find it.
I can't remember which European country that this band comes from, but it doesn't really matter, since its the music that counts. An instrumental four piece (gtr,bass,keys,drums), Dice plays a complicated form of symphonic progressive. While I can't think of anything that really stands out about Four Riders of the Apocalypse, it's definitely worthwhile if you like bands like Amenophis or Mirthrandir. The music follows a theme of sorts, with occasional reprises and repeated rhythms. It seems to be something of a concept album, but w/o lyrics I can't be sure. The only drawback to this otherwise excellent release is that it is a bit too straightforward. There are so many bands of this style. While Dice is definitely one of the better ones, the cliches tend to get old after a while.
They have featured only this album on the legendary Pilz label and one single with the tracks "Lucifer" and "Tired",
included in First. Apparently Manfred von Bohr (Birth Control, amongst
others) have been with them. They participate also on the compilation Heavy Christmas, a
sui-generis LP of the Pilz label, with original tracks related to Christmas.
The music they play on First is a hard (kraut)rock, based in blues, with lots of harmonic. But the album is very varied with tracks not similar one to another, some included more rock, some more fusionist (jazzy and psychedelic touches), but all with the power of (kraut)rock and the melody that take them to a very efficient lot of songs.
The production is charged to J. Schmeisser, first owner of the Pilz label, subsidiary of BASF (then substituted by Rolf-Ulrich Kaiser) and the Engineering is from the legendary master of the studio Conny Plank.
The LP is from 1971 but there is a release in CD by Ohrwaschl label in 1994 (OW026) -- Luis Jerónimo
Valleys In My Head (84)
The Flyer (84)
|The Swiss duo of Thomas Diethelm and Santino Famulari create some of the most unique and refreshing sounding music, while still being relatively accessible. There are three albums I know of. The first two are LP only, the third was a CD. The core of the sound is created by Diethelm, who plays acoustic guitars with various delays, harmonizers and flangers as an integral part of his technique, and Famulari on keyboards and piano. Trilok Gurtu adds percussion on the first album, Fritz Hauser on the second, and Regi Sager adds her vocals on one track "Mindfresher" on Valleys. I've not yet seen or heard the 3rd album. What do they sound like? As I listen I'm often reminded of Führs and Fröhling, but what D/F are doing is a bit more jazzy and less spacey and meditative. The guitar-delay-harmonizer thing is pretty unique, I can't really say I've ever heard anyone else utilizing it to this extent.|
|Ex-Emergency. One album only.|
Vibrating Air (81)
Time Clock Turn Back (82, Demo)
Who Says So? (83)
Out of the Trees (86)
Soundpool (99, Compilation)
|Although Extractions is old and difficult to find, it is certainly a minor masterpiece and well worth tracking down. The CD is about an hour in length and comprises thirteen songs, all instrumentals except for one number which features Elizabeth Fraser (from the Cocteau Twins). Five of the tracks are additional ones not on the vinyl release (and admittedly are a little weaker than the original eight), but the addition of such provides a soothing and at times humorous coda to the album and does not compromise its integrity. Most of the songs feature a standard rock quartet: two guitars, bass and drums. One cut adds sax, and a few others some keyboards and percussion. The music is mostly evocative, atmospheric, and dreamlike (reminiscent of the feeling of "Us and Them" from Dark Side of the Moon), the songs widely varied in tempo, dynamics and texture. The guitarists do not confine themselves to the standard (and rather pedestrian) rhythm/lead paradigm depended upon by so many two-guitar bands (Wishbone Ash comes to mind immediately, though I do think Argus is a masterpiece in its own right). They eschew such an approach, choosing instead to layer their sound(s) up from the ground without regard for traditional instrumental roles. It is rare that an electric instrumental ensemble can express so many different subtle hues of emotion, but Dif Juz deserves a medal for this finely constructed group of progressive/ambient tone poems.|
|Without a question one of the best progressive rock bands of the mid-to-late '80s, this quartet (2 guitars, bass and drums, with occasional saxophone, flute, keys, etc.) could be compared favorably to several of the so-called mostly instrumental "post-rock" bands (Ui, Tortoise, 5-ive Style, Scenic, etc.) which have breathed new life and media interest (i.e., have you read "Wire" magazine lately?) into progressive rock in the mid-'90s. Who Says So? is an early 8-song EP which lacks the lush production of their later albums. The music on Who Says So? sounds to me like a very appealing cross between Jamaican dub (a type of instrumental reggae), surf (driving rythms and twangy guitars) and punk (attitude and low-fi production). They did at least two more EPs before Who Says So? (Huremics and Vibrating Air) which were re-mixed and re-released as a very worthy full-length album on the 4AD label titled Out of the Trees. Despite the '4AD-ization' of the early EPs, they still sound remarkably fresh and energetic. Their first full-length album on 4AD, Extractions, is by far their best-known work. Produced by Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie, and featuring Cocteau Twin Liz Fraser on vocals on one track, Extractions answers the musical question: "What would the Cocteau Twins sound like if they recorded for ECM?" The driving rythms and experimentation of their earlier albums are downplayed somewhat in favor of a more 'spacious' bass sound, and shimmering piles of guitar overdubs and effects. Fortunately, it all works, and Extractions is a lovely, atmospheric (but not wimpy) set which rewards repeated listenings. -- Dave Wayne|
[See Cocteau Twins]
Click here for more info
The Voyage (82), A World of Difference (92)
The Voyage was originally released in 1982 (after being recorded in 1979), and is a classic example of the symphonic, melodic progressive rock that emerged from Europe in the seventies. As with that style of music, the music consists of vocals (in English) and fluid guitar leads over layered keyboards, churning out minor chords. The best comparison would probably be to Rousseau, themselves a seventies-revivalist band, and, perhaps Camel and Sebastian Hardie. Clocking in at a little over 70 minutes, A World Of Difference is the second release by the Dutch band, whose music is very much in the melodic, symphonic progressive mode. They have modernized their sound somewhat, and shortened the compositions a bit, but still retain the melodic sensibilities that characterised their first release, The Voyage. As a result, they can be compared to Saga, who, within the format of shorter tracks, were able to tailor their tracks to retain the "progressive" nature of their music. Another point of comparison would be latter-day Kayak, whose music could be best described as "progressive pop." The last track, just short of 16 minutes in length, is very much in the vein of the music of their first release, and closes out the music on a high note.
Their first album The Voyage, originally recorded in 1982 and re-released on CD in 1991, features a rich, full sound with colorful melodies, excellent vocals, and a full range of dynamics. Their instrumental approach falls somewhere between the Belgian band Machiavel and latter period Camel. Most of the tunes change tempo and feel regularly, and in general the sound is not hard, but it does cook nonetheless; Lots of guitar and keyboard exchanges, with extended instrumental passages, big pedal bass sound, and plenty of very original ideas. They reunited due to the success of the CD re-release, and recorded a new album in 1992 aptly titled A World Of Difference. It sounds almost nothing like The Voyage, the only fair way to describe it is boring.
All About Yourself (96)
Influenced by Rush, Marillion, Genesis, IQ, Yes and Dream Theater.
Dancing in the Fire (94)
Season of the Reason (02)
Digitalis 2002 - Torsten Gager (guitars), Rüdiger Deuster (keyboards & drum
programming) and Rik Bonnell (vocals and guitar)
Digitalis' latest album Season of the Reason is an overseas collaboration with Torsten Gager (guitars) and Rüdiger Deuster (keyboards & drum programming) composing and performing the instrumentals in Dusseldorf, Germany, then sending the data to Rik Bonnell in Mendon, Massachussetts, USA for vocals and some extra guitar. The overseas musicians have never even personally met (thus the obviously computer-generated band photo).
Judging from the samples on their web site, I had said that I really wanted to hear more from these guys. Well, now that I've had a chance to listen to Season of the Reason in its entirety, I must pronounce it a mixed bag. It's true that there are moments on this CD that will delight any prog fan's heart, but there are other moments that will turn their stomachs. The two sets of moments are probably about equal, and oddly some of them are delightful and nauseating at the same time. The prime example of this is a nearly direct quote on organ from ELP's "Karn Evil 9 - Third Impression" from Brain Salad Surgery. It's great because ... well, I love that song. But it's nauseating because they seem to think that I won't notice if they just changed a few notes. I'd rather they had just quoted it directly ... then I would call it an homage instead of what I call it now ... a ripoff.
The keyboards are good, frequently very Keith Emerson-like, and the guitars are adequate. Rik Bonnell sounds so much like Jon Anderson that I have to roll my eyes sometimes, though the lyrical content isn't as spiritual and oblique as Anderson. The compositions tend to the "simple song structure" side, though there are also some fantastic excursions from the main structures that take you by surprise. The drumming is mostly pretty good, though there are some very mechanical drum machine parts as well, used in soft songs that call for real drums ... the drum machine is quite jarring and sound like "I did it in my garage". For what it's worth, the vocals don't sound like they were performed by someone who's never even met the other musicians ... the multitracking is quite seamless.
I don't know ... this album certainly has enough good points that it's not a total loss, yet enough questionable points that I can't recommend it without some reservations. But at this point you've heard the whole story ... decide for yourself if you think it's worth a try. You won't be disappointed ... for at least half the time. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Digitalis' web site
Suite Per Una Donna Assolutamente Relativa (72)
This is pretty much a commercial band, only Suite Per Una Donna Assolutamente Relativa is progressive. It has beautiful lyrics.
Dilemma are a young, five-piece band (one each of guitar, vocals, bass, drums and keyboards). Trapped is their first release and is, I believe, cassette only. At just over 24 minutes, the four songs amount to a long "EP" rather than a full album. On the cassette, it says, "file under rock." That is oddly appropriate because it's very hard for me to call this progressive rock. The music is very accessible, hook-laden rock, quite straightforward, really. Dividing an eight minute song into eight sections hardly makes for a progressive album. The song in question, "The Horror of Time Travel," hardly has enough changes to warrant three parts, let alone eight. Stylistic comparisons can be made to the neo-prog scene as a whole, Rush and U2. Dilemma would fit right at home on the SI label, so if you get into the majority of bands on that label, you might like Dilemma as well. I found it quite boring. -- Mike Taylor
Land of the Midnight Sun (76)
Elegant Gypsy (77)
Splendido Hotel (80)
Electric Rendezvous (82)
Cielo E Terra (85)
Soaring through a Dream (85)
Tirami Su (87)
Kiss My Axe (91)
Orange And Blue (94)
Di Meola Plays Piazzolla (96)
The Infinite Desire (98)
Winter Nights (99)
The Grande Passion (00)
Flesh On Flesh (02)
With Return To Forever:
With Stomu Yamashta (and Go):
With The Guitar Trio:
With World Sinfonia:
Selected guest appearances or with others:
Al Di Meola
Di Meola was the guitarist in Return To Forever in the early 70's, later solo. Many albums of varying styles, from pure jazz to progressive-fusion. More of interest here would be albums like like Splendido Hotel or Scenario although listening to these will eventually lead you to his more unique and satisfying latin-jazz-guitar oriented albums like Cielo e Terra or his more recent Kiss My Axe.
|Fiery guitar player who first made his name in Return to Forever, then went solo. His albums have explored a variety of styles, but his best liked albums are the latin influenced fusion albums which are his first through Tour De Force, plus the recent Kiss My Axe (you'll have to forgive the title). Cielo E Terra and Soaring Through a Dream explore world musics, while Scenario and Tirami Su have some of the edge removed. The fusion albums have a slight degree of sameness. He just doesn't seem to be able to channel that fiery style into any stylistic changes. But that doesn't mean he's not worth hearing! Get Elegant Gypsy (my favorite) or Casino. You won't be disappointed if you like guitar fusion or just good guitar ability.|
|Electric Rendezvous and Kiss My Axe are incredible albums from one of the best fusion guitarists alive. I've heard that the live album was pretty poor though.|
|I've neither read nor heard any other opinions on the album, but Tour de Force Live is one of my favorite live albums.|
Though Mr. Di Meola is a spectacularly talented artist, easily among the ten best guitarists
on the planet, his solo albums always seemed to run hot and cold. One moment he'd be fretting a
riff like no other and the next, off into some AM adult contemporary jazz pap. First you'd have
some exciting new fusion, then an album that had only two
or three really good tracks. But starting in 1990 he began to work with an exceptional group of
musicians on an acoustic (and later more orchestral) World music project called World Sinfonia.
The first three albums on Tomato and Telarc are wonderful, spirited sessions recorded with aplomb.
Soulful and technically brilliant compositions with haunting blends of South American, jazz, Flamenco
and classical, with touches of Al's fusion guitar god past. In particular, for those interested
in the mixing and matching of styles, The Grande Passion captures one of the most satisfying
examples of classical meets jazz, Latin and rock. Well worth the time, especially if you're into
truly progressive music, rock or not. -- David Marshall
[Editor's Note: David Marshall seems to be counting The Grande Passion among the World Sinfonia releases. Though it does share some musicians with these albums, Di Meola does not list The Grande Passion among the World Sinfonia releases on his web site. That's why the discography above doesn't list it there. Just to be clear.]
[See Return to Forever |
White, Lenny |
Yamashta, Stomu (and Go)]
Click here for Al Di Meola's web site
Dimmornas Bro (77) and Mal (78?)
A Swedish band. Included here more for completeness, than as a recommendation. Of course, if you love "progressive" music, this one will go down too. And it probably helps to not know Swedish. But honestly not very original. One song is almost a Genesis rip-off.
Markov Process (94)
Tales of the Storyman (82)
Et le troisieme jour (76)
After the break up of the first Brégent group,
Michel-Georges Brégent (Clavinet, echoplex, Leslie 925, mellotron, Farfisa
organ, bass pedals, piano, Fender Rhodes, synthesizer, mini moog) formed a duo with
Vincent Dionne (Drums, tubular bells, castanets, cymbals, glockenspiel, gong,
timbales, triangle, vibraphone, xylophone) and went to record two fantastic albums.
The first album from 1976 is an electronic masterpiece similar in style to
Tangerine Dream or Klaus
Schulze. The second album, while electronic too, has a more
symphonic sound and is complemented by a string quartet.
Both albums are great and essential an any prog collection.
After these two records Michael formed another version of the group Brégent with brother Jacques and recorded Partir pour ailleurs in 1979. -- Julio Lopez
Le grand jeu (71)
Le prince croule (71)
Change d'addresse (76)
Musique de mes amis (78)
Pionniers 69-94 (94)
Dionysos were one of the first French Canadian prog bands, being formed in 1969, in Montreal.
They play a hard-edged brand of organ driven prog similar to many German bands of the day, on their
first couple of albums. Lots of organ/guitar jam with some flute and bits of
Mellotron coupled with a few blues songs made up the
bulk of those early albums. Some gruffy vocals, but not irritating. By 1976 the band went through
a few personel changes as well as musical ones, adopting a more concise song structured
music but still very nice, original and still progressive, with the ever present keyboards flute
and poetic lyrics. They broke-up in the early 80's and reformed in '94 for some club dates and an
album of re-working of some of their early songs with a modern production, still very nice stuff,
never selling-out. The band broke-up for good a few years later.
Warning! Not to be confused with another Canadian band that goes by the same name and play some crappy pop music. -- Alain Mallette
Push and Profit (93)
Canto IV (Limbo) (94 Cassette/CD single)
Unfolded Like Staircase (97)
Into the Dream (99, Live)
|Discipline is a band from the Detroit, Michigan area in the neo-progressive vein. Despite their name these guys sound more like a combination of Hogarth-era Marillion and IQ on certain songs. Their vocalist, Matthew Parmenter, reminds me of a young sounding Steve Hogarth, but his live stage presence is an experience in it's own, bringing together Gabriel-esque cotumes and make up ranging to Harlequin faces to straight jackets! Their CD, Push and Profit, is a good combination of many different styles, mainly progressive but with touches of Blues and classic rock. A very impressive album for their first attempt, bringing in elements of Gilmour sounding guitar and Martin Orford sounding keyboards with maybe even a hint of Greg Lake somewhere. Their CD single, Canto IV (Limbo), features one new song (title track) and two others from Push and Profit. -- Phil Slatterley|
|I have Unfolded Like Staircase. This album is not easy to get into. Influenced by Van Der Graaf Generator, one finds the dark tones in the music and singing. Some great saxophone playing and of course great Mellotron. The melodies are complex and the album has 4 long tracks. Excellent sound production. -- Jean-François Cousin|
|Links||Click here for Discipline web site|
On a Thin Rope (05, EP)
Utopia Perfection (07)
Discordia (2005) - Petri Sallinen (bass), Maik Meteor (drums), Fäänä
Väänänen (vocals), Antti Tolkki (guitar) and Ahmed Ahonen (keyboards)
No, they're not Discordians ... the name just sounded cool ("hey, discord with some Latin feeling, cool Beavis!"). However, they do admit they're getting some traffic on their web site from worshippers of Eris. If you don't know what that means, never mind. Fnord.
Discordia is a band of Finnish prog musicians founded in 2001. After several line-up changes, two of the original members Antti Tolkki (guitar) and Petri Sallinen (bass) have been joined by Maik Meteor (drums), Ahmed Ahonen (keyboards) and Fäänä Väänänen (vocals) for what they now consider to be their definitive line-up. They seem to have decided they don't need to sound like the usual suspects (Genesis, King Crimson, ELP etc.) to be progressive. Actually, they sound more like '70's Sparks or a less silly version of Bonzo Dog Band, though without Ron Mael's falsetto and higher complexity than the Bonzos. Their music is full of tongue-in-cheek social commentary, odd meter changes and interesting chord progressions, and they may take off on a 4-part harmony a capella part without warning. Great stuff, and highly recommended, though I'm basing this opinion on only a few excellent MP3 samples the band sent to me for review. -- Fred Trafton
|To most prog rock listeners, these Finns are gonna sound like a bunch of crazy wankers who remind vaguely of Scotland's The Proclaimers, and that's no great recommendation. Actually, they could be thought of as "real" prog rock in the way that Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly are considered "real" rock'n'roll. Essentially, Discordia is open to the music they appreciate without imposing a sound or tonal matrix upon themselves, which results in some very fun and earnest group music. This band is unaffected by the World yet open to it and is a refreshing, unpretentious way to experience ... wait for it ... garage prog. -- David Marshall|
Discordia (2007) Utopia Perfection Line-Up - Petri Sallinen (bass), Otto Mäkelä (drums),
Riikka Hänninen (vocals, tin whistle), Tero Väänänen (vocals, bass clarinet),
Liisa Lipas (keyboards, violin, santur) and Antti Tolkki (guitar)
Garage Prog? OK, I can see why Mr. Marshall came up with that in the previous review considering he had only heard On a Thin Rope. But in 2007, the band has released their first full album, Utopia Perfection, and I definitely wouldn't call this album "Garage Prog". It's excellent, very professional, and more "prog" than before. The comparisons to Sparks or Bonzo Dog Band I made before are invalid here. There are influences from '70's prog, metal stylings, celtic music and almost classically-styled vocal harmonies, but they've been melded together into something completely different, a very fresh and exciting style that Discordia can claim as their own. The lyrics cover a wide variety of imaginative topics, and are sung in English. The music is varied, progressive, well-executed and lots of fun to listen to because of the intellectual yet humorous and satiric lyrics ... in that way, they remind me a bit of Bubblemath.
There are quite a few standout moments on Utopia Perfection, like the vocal harmonies in "Forseen" which sound like a mix of Gentle Giant and Gregorian chants, and the tongue-in-cheek praise for the world-changing powers of Rock'n'Roll, or Metal in particular. They've been worshipping at the church of Bill and Ted I suppose.
But a band with a name like Discordia is bound to be influenced by a bit of chaos, and thus they are afflicted by -- or made more innovative by -- frequent changes in personnel. If the On a Thin Rope line-up was the "definitive" one, the new line-up re-defines them, since only two of the founding members Antti Tolkki (guitar) and Petri Sallinen (bass) are still left. Tero Väänänen (vocals, bass clarinet) is still with the band from On a Thin Rope (yes, this is the same guy as Fäänä, which is a nickname). They now say they "consider the current line-up as the tightest and most innovative in the band history". From what I've heard, I find that easy to agree with. The new members are Otto Mäkelä (drums), Liisa Lipas (keyboards, violin, santur) and Riikka Hänninen (vocals, tin whistle).
Bottom line: Utopia Perfection is an excellent album, and I hope to hear a lot more from these folks. I'm sure that the next album will be quite different from this one, and isn't that what "progressive" is supposed to mean? Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!. Highly recommended! -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Discordia's main web site
Click here for Discordia's MySpace site
... tot licht! (03)
Have you ever imagined that you will come across prog ensemble from
Indonesia. Well, I haven’t. But I came across them, and am glad, that I did.
Listening to the 1st, I’m more confused than dazzled, although there’s a lot to listen to. Band encompasses wide range of sounds (maybe too wide), the most prominent here being jazz (fusion?) and contemporary classical music. The octet (guitars, reeds, keys, violin, bass, synths, vocals, percussions) displays great ability (top-notch musicianship) for performing intricate compositions (more than half of album and mostly composed by Iwan Hasan) but also veer into "satisfy-all-and-everybody-with-music" area, thus juxtaposing prevalently excellent patchworks with passable through middling to disgusting jazzy-pop tunes with cabaret touches, showing pernicious tendencies to appeal widely. What I find really odd (or maybe even weird) here, is that usually just in the middle of these radio-friedly stuff short dissonant solos appear from nowhere and return whence they come from. Experiment? Maybe, but really weird one.
Fortunately, 65% of remaining space offer much more. On "Lamentation and Fantasia Gamelantronique" - 8 mins+, one can hear everything, from Schonberg/Berg austerity, ethnic Gamelan music (as exotic to contemporary music as milk to hot chocolate), Cynic deftlyness, and classic heavy metal frenzy, everything so well intervowen and fluently done, that these seemingly disparate elements appear as everything else but disparate. "Contrasts" is 12 min+ patchwork on which again all sorts of music appear. From Floydic smoke-ambiental through Gamelan (excellent combination of flute and balinese percussion, which transforms into Cynically good short guitar-solo) through Berg-esqueness, Varese-ianisms to Dream Theater, and so on. And even singing is not missing (both ethnic and usual). And nothing mentioned does not stuck in one’s ears. "Doc’s Tune" is revelling amalgam of jazz and new music sounds, with Anto Praboe’s clarinet playing dominant role. "For This Love" is the most passable radio-friendly song, where Nonnie’s mezzosoprano comes to full expression, while in "Violin Metaphysics" violin explores different, echoing ambients (magnetique?). The best of all compositons is mega-excellent "Condissonance", written for trio of bass-clarinet, 21-string harpoguitar(!!) and a violin (for me yet unheard combination of instruments). At first I thought that harpoguitar is native instrument, but linear notes said it was made by one guy in Portland, and on the picture looks really grandiose. This way or another the guy who handles it, knows how to use it. However, "Condissonance" starts with a english medievalprog theme (violin) similar to Gentle Giant or Phillips era Genesis, soon harpoguitar joins (undeniably Phillipsesque) and few notes later bass-clarinet, which opens the door into hall of dodecaphony. While bass-clarinet and violin veawe together combinations of 12 tones, harpoguitar counterpoints with melodies and harmonies. Then, all of sudden, all three or in permutations jaunt around like in "Peter and the Wolf". Then again harpoguitar returns with Phillips-like theme, counterpointed with dissonances, and so on. Stunningly complex and simply fantastic!!! CD is worth for this track alone. Due to radio-friendliness present, I can’t really say essential new progressive music, but almost two thirds of release are very, very good. Recommended!! -- Nenad Kobal
|If Nenad (in his review above) can't "really say essential" of 1st, then let me say it of Discus' second album, ... tot licht!: ESSENTIAL! If this was a German band, I would tell you that "tot licht" means "dead light", but assuming this is Indonesian and not German, I don't really know what it means. Still, Discus crosses so many ethnic and musical borders here that they should be granted Executive Platinum status ... or, in this paranoid day and age, arrested as terrorists. Frank Zappa gnat notes compete for equal time with Judas Priest vocal screeching, Sex Pistols angry punk choruses, smoothly beautiful female vocals, modern classical chamber music, oriental wood percussion, Henry Cow wierdness, Bloomdido Bad de Grass sax and flute solos, Indonesian Gamelan music, heavy breathing, acoustic guitar plucking and Weather Reportish fusion. If you don't like it, just wait a moment and it will be something entirely different. For another band, this would sound like a disjointed, disorganized mess ... but Discus makes it all flow together flawlessly. ... tot licht! is easily on my top-ten albums for 2003, and it made many other prog reviewer's annual lists as well. They've done something prog artists seem to be having a difficult time doing nowadays ... coming up with a sound that's truly their own. Spectacular! -- Fred Trafton|
[Regarding Fred's comment about the meaning of "... tot licht", above]
I would like to solve a little linguistic conundrum. I saw in your Discus review that you were wondering what "tot licht" means. Well, I can tell you it's not German (if it had been, it would've said "totes Licht"), but Dutch (Indonesia once was a Dutch colony, you see). It simply means "to light". I've seen the CD once, and somewhere in the booklet or on the back cover there's a slightly longer phrase, something like (I don't remember it exactly) "Uit het duister ... tot licht", meaning "Out of the dark ... into the light". -- Bas Janssen
Click here for Discus' web site
Click here to order ... tot licht! from Musea Records
Click here for the GEPR's interview with Iwan Hassan of Discus
Live in Temple Bar (99, Live)
Il manuale dei piccoli discorsi (01)
Distillerie di Malto - Fabiano Cudazzo (keyboards), Giuliano Torelli (bass), Fabrizio
Pellicciaro (vocals, guitar, recorder), Maurizio Di Tollo (drums, vocals) and Marco
Angelone (electric & acoustic guitars). Not pictured - Luca Latini (flute).
DdM's first album, Live in Temple Bar is (obviously) a live CD containing covers of Genesis, King Crimson and Jethro Tull besides their own songs. I haven't heard this album, but I've certainly heard these influences on their studio release, Il manuale dei piccoli discorsi.
Il manuale dei piccoli discorsi isn't a particularly lengthy CD at 49 mins long, but it contains 5 long cuts ... the shortest one is almost 6 minutes long, and the longest is 13:24. The first influence you hear is in the opening cut of the album, namely a Crimson-like dark guitar and bass pattern that reminds of "Fracture", but this soon gives way to a more melodic rock feel. As the album moves along, there are moments of Jethro Tull at their most martial with flutes, Steve Hackett-school languid sustained electric leads, spacey atmospheric meanderings, and even some vocal barking that reminds me of After the Fire's "Der Kommisar". But the influence you'll hear most frequently is that of Genesis. There are some vocals in most of the cuts, both English (I think) and Italian, but the music is heavy on instrumentals.
"Melodia di fine autunno" starts off very pastoral, almost Camel's Snow Goose-ish in its beauty, before seguéing into a heavier section. The guitar/organ interplay of "Aria e vento" brings Nursery Cryme-era Genesis to mind, only to have the illusion shattered by an ELPish clarion call from a heavily portamentoed synth lead. Of course the illusion wasn't that strong in the first place, given the Italian vocals in this song.
Distillerie di Malto may wear their influences on their sleeves, but they're darned good influences, and they have more than enough of their own originality in this release to make this an excellent listen. I highly recommend Il manuale dei piccoli discorsi, and look forward to hearing more from these gents. -- Fred Trafton
[See Maschera Di Cera]
Click here for Distillerie di Malto's
web site, in both Italian and English
Original entry, 6/21/07:
Distinguished Panel of Experts is a new sort of "super-group" featuring several names you've probably heard of in other contexts. Shawn Persinger (Boud Deun, Prester John) plays guitar, Guy LeBlanc (Nathan Mahl) is on keys, Mike Sary (French TV) plays bass, and Chris Vincent (also formerly of French TV) is the drummer.
Mike Sary described their in-progress CD to me thus: "It's some pretty rockin' stuff -- we're billing it as 'a guitar hero record for people who hate guitar hero records'. It's as all over the map as FTV -- there's surf tunes, Nashville tunes, ambient space tunes, as well as the obligatory guitar hot dog stuff. Guy in particular really shines; it's a side of him you don't usually see in Nathan Mahl. I expect a lot of people who don't give FTV the time of day will like this one."
More on this band as soon as I know more! -- Fred Trafton
Well, I now do know more than when I originally wrote this, thanks to the fact that Mike Sary sent along a work in progress CDR of the Distinguished Panel of Experts album. It may be a work in progress, but it seems to be mostly complete, and it's really an amazing piece of work. Those who are hoping for something similar to a French TV album will be disappointed, but those who find FTV to be a bit too challenging will be gratified by Shawn Persinger's guitar pyrotechnics and Guy LeBlanc's keyboard workmanship. LeBlanc's style is very different from either his solo work or Nathan Mahl ... actually, it frequently reminds me of Jordan Rudess' "speed-metal keyboard" style as heard on Dream Theater's post-Rudess albums. Sary's bass work comes through loud, clear and ornate as well, and sounds far less chaotic than his usual work with FTV.
The music is mostly instrumental, though there is a spoken "Uncle Remus Fairy Tale" concerning bees and bears that ends up being a neat parable about modern diplomatic techniques. It's sort of a more southern and more political version of "The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles".
Sary has been shopping the album around to various labels and was getting frustrated by the lack of interest in spite of the all-star line-up. However, he has recently made a deal with one of the big prog labels (I'll report who when the deal has been finallized) and we will hopefully see the album released soon. If there's an album title yet, I don't know what it is, or perhaps it will simply be eponymous.
Anyway, from what I've heard, this is a group to keep on the lookout for. Great stuff. -- Fred Trafton
Sorry, took my eye off the ball on this one ... Distinguished Panel of Experts did release their album, Trans-Indulgent in 2009. The "big label" mentioned above turns out to be two labels. The album was simultaneously released on the Musea Records and Luna Negra labels. But I can't actually find a web presence for Luna Negra, so order it from Musea. I still haven't heard the final CD, but I really liked the "work in progress CDR" Mike Sary sent a couple of years back, so this can only be even better, right?
Near as I can tell, this band has zero web presence. This GEPR entry actually comes up first when I Google "Distinguished Panel of Experts band". Of course, that could be just because Google knows I'm me. I should try it from our local library sometime. But I digress ... I only mentioned it because there's noplace for me to get a band photo for this entry. Maybe Mike Sary could provide one. Or maybe they were never in the same room together at any point. That's the way it works nowdays. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Boud Deun | French TV | Guy LeBlanc | Nathan Mahl]|
Sorrow and Promise (01)
Divine In Sight - Bartholomew Boge (guitars, vocals), Jonathan
Dexter (bass, keyboards, pedals), Frank Ralls (drums)
Divine In Sight, as you might guess from the name, is a Christian Progressive Rock band, and in 2001 they released an album called Sorrow and Promise. It is mostly a rock opera but with a couple of other tunes not directly related to the opera. I have to admit it ... I wanted to hate this album. In spite of having once been in a Christian Progressive Rock band myself at one time, most of the stuff I've heard that calls itself Christian prog has been pretty lame; watered down prog pop at best, and frequently poorly produced, relying on the "Christian charity" of their audiences to forgive their weaknesses. Add to that the fact that my personal spiritual leanings no longer tilt in the direction of Christianity and I was fully prepared to really dislike Sorrow and Promise. But, it was not to be ... far from hating this album, I must say it's one of the best progressive albums I've heard so far in 2001.
Let's get one thing clear ... the lyrics are preachy. Though Divine in Sight tries to use the more neutral term "spiritual progressive art rock", make no mistake that these guys are evangelical Christians, and that's what the lyrical content is about. If you're a Christian, this may not bother you. If you're not, I say don't worry about it. If we proggers can listen to Gong touting eastern religions and neopaganism thinly disguised by Pot Head Pixies, or Mahavishnu Orchestra or Clearlight's clearly Hindu mysticism or Magma's homebrewed mythologies, I think we can deal with some Christian lyrics. If you can either accept the lyrical content at face value or just let it go, everything else about this CD is a treat! I've noted that other reviewers have not cared much for Bart Boge's vocals, which are so high that I thought I was hearing a female vocalist on the rock opera intro song, the mostly acoustic "In a Box". But one gets used to this rather quickly, in my opinion, and the vocals work well with the songs.
Musically, the closest overall band I might compare them to would be Rush, with their melodic yet metallic electric guitar interspersed and sometimes intertwined with acoustic guitars, plus their reliance on "in-yer-face" harmonic and counterpoint bass lines. The keyboards and drums are competent, but not the prime ingredients in this music; those are the guitars and bass, and to a lesser extent the vocals. Bass player Jonathan Dexter is one of the finest bassists I've ever heard, with his Geddy Lee type fingering and Chris Squire Rickenbacker sound. He doesn't just sit in the background playing a boomy sustained tonic, the bass is equalized to accentuate the high end making the pitches easier to hear. (He also uses a 5-string Rickenbacker with an extra high "C" string at the top to play more in the guitar sonic spectrum). There are many places on the album where the bass is obviously the predominant instrument. Jonathan's bass figures frequently remind me of Chris Squire's (circa Relayer) also.
Bart Boge's guitars, songwriting and production are highly reminiscent of Queen, with vocals overdubbed to make huge chorales, and guitar sound and licks reminiscent of Brian May's. But, once again reminding of Rush, I sometimes think of Alex Lifeson as well, especially for some of the acoustic guitar parts. The unusually "crunchy" metal guitar in the "Overture", where all the themes of the rock opera are previewed, is fantastic, it gives me chills every time I hear it. From the screams of lost souls falling "Into the Abyss" to the trudging "March of the Damned", lots of sound effects pervade this production, making it bombastic, pretentious and self-important ... nothing wrong with that as long as they have the chops to pull it off, and these gents certainly do.
In case you haven't figured it out yet, I highly recommend this CD. If you miss this one, you'll be missing out on a lot. I don't actually think your soul would be in peril if you didn't buy this CD, but ... hey, what do I know? Maybe you should go to the Divine in Sight web site and order a copy ... just to be on the safe side. Amen, Brother! -- Fred Trafton
for Divine in Sight's web site
The Great Spectacular (75)
What If (78)
Night of The Living Dregs (79)
Sex, Dregs & Rock'n'Roll (79)
Dregs of The Earth (80)
Unsung Heroes (81)
Live in New York (81)
Industry Standard (82)
Bring Em Back Alive (92)
Best of the Dixie Dregs (87, Compilation)
Divided We Stand - The Best of (89)
Bring 'en Back Alive (92)
Full Circle (94)
King Biscuit Flower Hour (98)
California Screamin' (00)
The Dixie Dregs first promo photo - ?, Andy West (bass), Steve Morse (guitar), Rod Morgenstein (drums), ?. Photo © Michael Mastro
The Dixie Dregs, later known as The Dregs, are a 5-piece fusion band with influences from rock, jazz, country/western, and classical music. They feature guitar (Steve Morse), keyboards (Mark Parrish or T Lavitz), drums (Rod Morgenstein), bass (Andy West or Dave LaRue), and violin (Alan Sloan or Marc O'Connor or Jerry Goodman). Personally, they are one of my two favorite bands in the world, along with Gentle Giant. Their music is complex, intricate, and enjoyable. On a single album, their style will range from slow jazz to chicken-pickin' country to raucous rock and roll, all played with power and finesse. The best known Dreg is the guitarist, Steve Morse, who won the "Best Overall Guitarist" award for 5 years in Guitar Player magazine (as voted by guitarists). He is also the composer for the band, and his compositions are excellent. The drummer, Rod Morgenstein, is my favorite drummer on the planet. All the players are outstanding though. In addition, every one of their albums is great. Start with What If or Dregs of the Earth; Freefall is probably not a good starting place because the studio recording is inferior to that of the later albums. And see them live if you can!!. -- Dan Barrett
|Most people think they sound like an instrumental form of Kansas. To an extent this is true. If you like Kansas I would suggest starting with the album What If?. Their other albums are more jazzy and have more variety than Kansas does. Favorites are Night of the Living Dregs and Dregs of the Earth.|
|Pompous with good reason. Southern boogie with a lot of progressive rock goodies thrown in. May be too slick for some.|
|My highest recommendation goes to the album What If which is clearly their best, although Freefall and Night of... are also outstanding.|
|Lead by the excellent guitar work of Steve Morse, the Dixie Dregs are a must-have for any guitar fan. Usually called fusion, but there is more evidence of a country flavor than jazz influence in the music. Fantastically tight, the band has loads of excellent interplay between guitar, keyboards, and violin. Morse is an incredibly talented guitarist who is very dedicated to his instrument.|
|Like others might say, sounds like a more complex, instrumental version of Kansas. Listening to Bring 'Em Back Alive makes me think of this group as a bunch of very talented musicians having a hell of a good time. Their music really smokes, and generally upbeat rather than depressing or introspective like Marillion or Fates Warning.|
|I have Dregs of the Earth, and, though I like it, I wouldn't say that I was as happy with it as I expected to be after all of the raves I'd heard.|
[See Lavitz, T. |
Morse, Steve |
Rudess Morgenstein Project |
Can't find a web site for the Dixie Dregs, but Steve Morse has lots of info on his web site.
McMusic For The McMasses (82)
No Commercial Potential (85)
The Ritual Continues (87)
Kafka's Breakfast (82, re-release and outtakes)
Reflections From the Firepool (89)
Suspension and Displacement (91)
Burning The Hard City (91)
The Devouring (97)
Still No Commercial Potential (98, Limited edition CD)
Live at Orion (99)
New Dark Age (01)
A Night for Baku (03)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (04)
Recollection Harvest (05)
The Heavy Soul Sessions (10)
The Waiting Room (10, as Ukab Maerd)
Djam Karet - The Iconic Band Photo (theoretically, this is Gayle Ellett, Henry J. Osbourne, Chuck Oken Jr., Aaron
Kenyon and Mike Henderson).
These four Californian musicians are very unpredictable. On Burning the Hard City, they play a kind of space-fusion that blends elements of psychedelic rock with electric jazz. This four piece band uses guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and sound effects to create very spacy music. But that doesn't translate into relaxation music. The compositions occasionally use heavy riffs and involve some improvisation that brings about long guitar solos. In fact, this disc will appeal primarily to electric guitar fans, even if it also features a very dynamic rhythm section. On Suspension & Displacement, the music is very experimental and ambient. This four piece band uses guitars, keyboards, bass, drums and sound effects but the tracks show very slow developments and serve primarily to create atmospheres. As a result, the music has an electronic sound where the use of melodies is limited to slow hypnotic sequences on guitars, keyboards or percussions. An original production with gloomy themes and an intensity that can make you dizzy. Certain scenes may not be suited for some audiences. -- Paul Charbonneau
First, lets all get the pronunciation down pat: zhahm ka-RETTE. Something like that, anyway. It's not DEE-jam Carrot. (According to the band, Djam Karet is a Balinese phrase that means "the hour that stretches.") However you pronounce the band's name, one thing is certain: Djam Karet has produced some of the most original American Progressive Rock within the past 10 years. Some people claim that Djam Karet is easily one of the top five American Prog bands in existence today. Others say that Djam Karet is one of the top five most HYPED bands in American Prog today. By the end of this review, I reckon y'all will know how I weigh in.
A few generalizations can be made about Djam Karet and their first four albums. The band is four members: Chuck Oken, Jr. on electronic and acoustic drums and sequencing; Henry J. Osborne on a variety of bass guitars; and Mike Henderson and Gayle Ellett on a variety of electric and acoustic guitars. All four members contribute percussion, keyboards and miscellaneous effects. Each musician has a heapin' helpin' of musical talent and each contributes effectively to the intensity and creativity of their music. When describing Djam Karet, I have always said they have the intensity of King Crimson and the spaciousness of Pink Floyd. Yet they sound like neither of them. Nor do they sound like anyone else. Djam Karet draw from many different elements of European Progressive Rock and have blended them into a unique musical statement. Reviewed here are the band's five CD releases. No Commerical Potential and McMusic for the McMasses (released under the band name Kafka's Breakfast?) were two previous cassette-only releases that are out of print.
The Ritual Continues features a variety of styles that would be explored in more detail with subsequent releases. The opener, "The Shamen's Descent," sets the stage with ethereal voices. Songs like "Familiar Winds" and "The Black River" have a relaxed groove with laid-back guitar solos. "Technology and Industry" picks up the pace with free-blowing jams, heavy guitar and thumping bass over shifting drum patterns. Then the pace slows considerably and takes on psychedelic hues for "The Ritual Continues"; tablas and sitars define the ages-old Shamen's ritual. From this point on, we hear less of the guitar jams and begin to move into spacier ethnic realms, as the Shamen's ministration of peyote recalls sacrosanct memories of the ancient tribe's forefathers. (OK, OK ... I'm losing it here. Still, it sets the mood.) By "Fractured," we're treated to ominous synth and processed electronics amidst tribal percussion. The final 17 minutes of this album, "Revisiting a Quiet Place...," is a gentle wash of bird song, babbling brooks, night-time sounds, spacy music and interjections of found sounds and more processed electronics. This album flows wonderfully, which is why I'm a bit upset that they added two Happy Cancer bonus tracks as the second and second-to-last tracks, interupting the flow of the original album. Happy Cancer were a pre-Djam Karet formation with a couple of different members. "Tangerine Rabbit Jam" (cool name) is surprisingly Djam Karet-like but "Night Scenes" is a weird mix of slightly dissonant acoustic guitar, disrhythmic music and demented voices. Though "Tangerine Rabbit Jam" works OK in the general flow of the album, I find "Night Scenes" ruins the transistion from "Fractured" to "Revisiting ..." Also, it's songs like "Revisiting ..." that is one reason some people aren't able to get into Djam Karet. The disjointed addition of jackhammers and bizarre electronics to the tranquility of the night comes off as schizophrenic and disturbing. Others, of course, will find the juxtaposition amazingly powerful. I'm somewhere in the middle, though I quite enjoy the album as a whole.
Reflections from the Firepool is a cauldron of boiling and emotive guitars, brooding and atmospheric synths, and percolating percussion, seasoned with a dash of savory effects. Beginning with "The Sky Opens Twice," the band takes off on a melodic guitar romp with a heavy, sawtooth edge that soon becomes more brooding and passionate. The heavy instrumental edge is heard on the first few cuts. These tracks hint at the improvisational nature that marked the early days of Djam Karet. At any moment, I expected the band to take off on extended, free-form excursions but they generally stayed within the structure of the song. After these songs, the band moves into more atmospheric and experimental realms, straddling the border between Electronic music and Prog. For example, Oken shifts from the polyrhythmic drumming of "Fall of the Monkeywalk" to the electronic percussion heard in "Scenes from the Electric Circus" and "The Red Monk." The primordial "Animal Origins" highlights what I like about Djam Karet and this album: the band create and explore textures usually associated with Electronic/Synth music but create it with guitars, bass, percussion and only some synth. Except for the solos, you rarely hear the pick's attack on the guitar strings. It's as if the guitarist turned up the volume knob after striking the string, or if most of the notes were created just by sliding up and down the fretboard. Think of what Jimi Hendrix did with (to?) the "Star Spangled Banner," with his incredible use of sustain and feedback. Djam Karet successfully employ those techniques throughout this album. They are also capable of creating a good deal of tension within a song. For example, the "free-jazz" sax solo contained in "All Doors Look Alike" tries to drive the pace to increasing speed but the guitars remain steadfast. The tension is relieved by acoustic guitar reminiscent of early Pink Floyd. Thus, Reflections from the Firepool still shows the diversity of style heard on The Ritual Continues but the band has matured and made better use of studio and effects.
In 1991, Djam Karet released the paternal twins, Burning the Hard City and Suspension & Displacement. As the liner notes claim, the two albums each have a different musical focus, yet they are complimentary. Burning the Hard City takes an aggressive stance, with one guitar scorching, the other searing, both blistering. The buzzsaw attack of songs like "Grooming the Psychosis," "Province 19: The Visage of War" and the title track is relentless, and further honed by the driving bass and percussion. There is a tendency to want to call the instrumental, guitar-dominated songs "fusion." However, to my ears, jazz is not involved. This is instrumental rock, through and through. I'll note here one of the biggest complaints that many have about Djam Karet. On this album, six of the eight songs are 9-12 minutes in length. The problem is that, despite the meaning of the band's name, the songs don't necessarily have that much to say. The development of the main theme drags on too long before the solo comes in and often drags on too long after the solo ends. This annoyed me a great deal when I first got this and it is my biggest criticism of Djam Karet's style. Some of the songs on Reflections from the Firepool (e.g., "Scenes from the Electric Circus") suffer from this problem, as well. To be sure, there is some excellent guitar work to be heard from both Ellett and Henderson (I don't know which solos belong to which guitarists, so I'm not making distinctions) but I think many of the songs would have been more effective at seven or eight minutes. I say it used to annoy me; I've since adjusted after many listenings. First, there is a bit more going on in the background than is first apparent and, second, I've gotten used to it. In several cases, a song shifts mood and character enough such that it seems one song is actually composed of two. Still, especially in the case of Burning the Hard City, the repetition within a song goes beyond tension building and can get tedious unless I'm in the right mood. Many people, however, cite this album as their favorite Djam Karet release.
These same folks, however are sometimes not quite sure what to make of Suspension and Displacement. The sister album takes a vastly different approach, exploring fully the textural aspects of sound that can be created with a four-piece band. Both The Ritual Continues and Reflections from the Firepool contained a few songs in this style but Suspension and Displacement is nothing but brooding, atmospheric music throughout. Take for example, the opening track, "Dark Clouds, No Rain." This song calls to mind images of heavy, swollen, ominous clouds drifting overhead, ready to burst into an afternoon summer thunderstorm. Images like this are musically described across the nine songs of this 70 minute disc. A particularly interesting tune is "Consider Figure Three" which takes a university anatomy lecture and places it behind the atmospheric music. It sounds strange but works wonderfully. Occasionally they touch down on familiar ground, such as the Gilmouresque acoustic guitar work in "Severed Moon." Most of the comments above about their more electronic works apply in spades to this release. One interesting sidebar: Here on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain in southeastern Louisiana, there is an abundance of rainfall. After a rain, the frogs start chirruping and the birds start singing. Listening to Suspension & Displacement balanced against the natural sounds drifting through the open windows was simply exquisite. Mother Nature was improvising against the brooding backdrop of Djam Karet and it worked marvellously. If you get into textural explorations, this album is a must.
With the release of Collaborator, the morphous Djam Karet further expanded the envelope that defines the band and their style. In this formation, Djam Karet is simply Gayle Ellett and Henry Osborne. Mike Henderson also gets credit though he is no longer a full member of the band; neither does he contribute to all the tracks. Gone completely is Chuck Oken. Collaborator is a collaborative album from afar: Various electronic musicians sent different, incomplete musical sketches to Djam Karet, who then finished off the ideas with their own. Never were the guests and Djam Karet together in the same room, nor were Djam Karet aware in advance of what music was to be sent. Collaborating musicians include Kit Watkins, Walter Holland, Marc Anderson, Carl Weingarten, Loren Nerell, Jeff Greinke and Steve Roach. Most guests contributed in final form to two songs, although two cuts are co-efforts (e.g., Watkins and Nerell, and Greinke and Roach). Surprisingly, Djam Karet were able to seamlessly intertwine their own ideas with the musical ideas sent to their door. I expected the effort to be somewhat disjointed. I would guess Ellett and Osborne spent a lot of time with the sketches before laying down their own ideas. Because Djam Karet often used various sequencers on their previous albums, differentiating between Djam Karet and the collaborative artist can be difficult. Yet, there is one thing missing that distinguishes Collaborator from previous Djam Karet releases: the guitars. While not the guitar-driven instrumental rock of songs on Burning the Hard City or Reflections from the Firepool, even the textural Suspension & Displacement features the distinctive buzz-saw guitar tone employed by Ellett (and Henderson). Of the 12 songs on Collaborator, few (e.g., "The Day After" with Steve Roach) are the cuts where the guitar is truly evident. The noticeable lack of electric 7-string guitar separates this release from Suspension & Displacement, the most similar Djam Karet album in style. Still, Collaborator flows well, is rich with inventive musical thought from all involved musicians, and is a fine blend of texture and atmosphere. I suppose a few folks will have trouble accepting Collaborator as a Djam Karet album. Why didn't they use the guitars more? Where are the burning solos that melt hard cities? Where is the reflective firepool?
In my opinion, Djam Karet are one of the better American Progressive bands of the late '80s and early '90s, though they may indeed have been hyped a wee bit in some circles. They certainly are no slouches, though. The band shows no compromise in their style; they play what they want to play. Having their own studio frees them from any commercial pressures they may otherwise feel. Sometimes, their melodies suffer from overdevelopment that can get tedious (e.g., Burning the Hard City) but the majority of their albums provide a good balance between hard, instrumental Prog and sonic explorations in texture. Personally, for starters, I would suggest Reflections from the Firepool as that provides the instrumental work of Burning the Hard City and the atmospherics of Suspension & Displacement on one disc. -- Mike Taylor
I have The Ritual Continues, which is spellbinding improvisational music. Has been compared to Edhels, but Djam Karet is infinitely better, more professional sounding and taking far more chances musically. Keyboards take a back seat here to the dual guitars of Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson. The arrangements are percussive and often somewhat ethnic sounding. Early instrumental Amon Düül II is the closest comparison I can think of, maybe some Pink Floyd or Gong too. "Shahman's Descent" is really great! I've heard Reflections From The Firepool as well. It's another good one. -- Mike Ohman
After reading all the raves reviews on this band I was expecting something fantastic. The Reflections From the Firepool album is not. I was much more impressed with No Commercial Potential. Yes, they are very talented. Yes, they are very innovative. No, they are not that good. There are some tracks I really like, and others I can't stand, with a complete range in between. At least two cuts (can't remember their names) show hints of true genious but most of them drone on and on and on ... Djam Karet just don't keep my attention. I admit that the more I listen to Firepool the more I like it but after a couple of months I still don't like it very much. Case in point, I have no intention of getting it on CD right now. If I had to narrow it down, I'd say that the main detraction is their repetitiveness. Good rhythms are good rhythms but if you don't change fairly often I tune out. The title on No Commercial Potential says it all - an hour of improvisational jamming is not something you ever expect to hear on the radio. Good thing too. The 3 cuts on this cassette only release are "spontaneously composed" excursions into duel guitar/bass/drum indulgence. Compared to Reflections from the Firepool, this is much better. The rhythms are busier, dual-leads and guitar harmonys, and its a hell of a lot less repetitive. This seems surprising in a spontaneous jam, but Djam Karet shines with their unique interpretation of heavy fusion. The tracks seem to have a well-thought-out approach that their other offerings lack. Quite a remarkable and worthwhile undertaking.
Imagine a sound with the force and power of mid-period King Crimson, the fluidity and spaciness of Pink Floyd, and the percussive power of Peter Gabriel's "Security." Throw into that mix a generous helping of the new Industrial Rock, and you have the sound of Djam Karet. Their sound is progressive, snarly, full of fire and 100% instrumental. These guys, who come from the Los Angeles area, are no newcomers to the music scene. Their first recording was in 1982: McMusic for the McMasses under the name Kafka's Breakfast. Although it didn't do much in the states, it was widely respected in UK progressive circles. Their 1987 live release titled The Ritual Continues was voted among the top ten releases of that year by Electronic Musician Magazine.
In late 1991 Djam Karet released two new compact discs. The first is titled Burning The Hard City and focuses on the more hard driving side of the band's sound, the rock and the rhythm. The bottom end is handled by the top notch rhythm section of Henry Osborne on Bass and Chuck Oken on Drums. At the top end you have the dual blistering lead guitars of Chuck Henderson and Gayle Ellett: some comparisons could be made to Dave Gilmour, Bob Fripp, Steve Hillage, or electric Steve Tibbetts, but all in a more industrial rock setting. The two switch off between lead and power rhythm, alternating solos, Ellett also filling in on keyboards on some of the tracks. All of the discs seven tracks are outstanding, the most noteworthy being "Province 19: The Visage of War," reminiscent of Crimson's Larks' Tongues period, the scorching "Grooming the Psychosis," "At the Mountains of Madness," and the incredible title track "Burning The Hard City."
The other CD is titled Suspension And Displacement, and focuses on the more industrial and spacy side of the band's work. Here the guitars whirr and groan, and synthesizers are used liberally for effect, not melody. Haunting rhythms and textures seem to appear out of nowhere, from every shadow. All of the discs nine tracks hail superb, including the eleven minute album opener "Dark Clouds, No Rain," "Consider Figure Three," a riveting "The Naked and The Dead," and "A City of Two Tales, Part One Revisited," a re-recorded and much improved track that originally appeared on Ritual. The two discs are very different, but complementary. Both contain around 70 minutes of music each, and were in the works for well over a year. Both are brilliant and imaginative. Highly recommended. Also worth checking out is their back catalog, especially their 1989 release Reflections From The Firepool, and the previously mentioned 1987 release The Ritual Continues.
Djam Karet is a California based band whose somewhat fusion-tinged brand of progressive rock recalls some of the best improvisational bands of the seventies and prog bands of the new French scene, such as Edhels or Minimum Vital. The music is very strong, and is fronted by guitars and keyboards. Another possible comparison would be to the long lost Dregs, though Djam Karet tend to be more "spacy" at times. Reflections From The Firepool was released a couple of years back, and is orders of magnitude more sophisticated and virtuosic than their previous works. It exemplifies the style of the band as described earlier. Burning The Hard City is the follow-up to Reflections... as far as style is concerned, and is, in their words, .".. 70 minutes ... Full on, aggressive instrumental rock with chunky power rhythms, wailing guitar solos, and complex musical interplay between two guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, and percussion!." That sums it up pretty well! In addition, Djam Karet also compose electronic music, and the companion release to Burning..., Suspension and Displacement, is evidence of their skills in that area. To leverage off their descriptions again, "... 70 minutes ... the quieter and darker side of Djam Karet. Acoustic instruments meld with synthesizers and treated guitar, weaving surreal dreamscapes of sound.." As before, that is a fair description, and the music is probably best compared with that of Klaus Schulze in his more atmospheric moments, or Michael Stearns.
Imagine influences of King Crimson, Pink Floyd, and Tangerine Dream at their improvisational best - mix in some vaguely ethnic musics - and top it off with one of the tightest fusion bands in history and you more or less have Djam Karet. Not that these guys sound distinctly like any of those bands, the influences just give a vague direction as to where their music is heading. Their all instrumental music may be some of the most original music heard since the classics of the early seventies Start with Reflections From The Firepool and than get the rest!
Great instrumental band from California. Five CDs so far, and a couple of tape-only releases before that. One live video as well. Powerful instrumental work that occasionally gets mellow like Pink Floyd, sometimes dissonant like King Crimson, and yet retains a style of its own. Worth checking out, IMO. Start with Reflections from the Firepool for a good cross-section.
I love Reflections from the Firepool and Burning the Hard City, but couldn't get into to the ambient ... noise of Suspension and Displacement as much. The first is a compilation of earlier works, and has some great tracks on it. The second, well, how bad could an album with a track called "Grooming the Psychosis" really be? I'd say that a couple tracks remind me a good bit of Floyd, and Burning the Hard City has an overall feel which reminds me somewhat of Red from Crimson.
Djam Karet (on Reflections From The Firepool) have a relaxing quality to their music which makes it very listenable. For me, this album is mixed: some very good bits, lots of quite good bits and some bits which I find a little jarring. These subdivisions don't necessarily follow the guitar/bass/drums vs. midi sounds divide which also exists on the album: I like parts of each. I've only listened to this a dozen times so far, but I reckon it will yield a whole lot more in the future.
Just a bit of pre-history. The band began in the very early 80's in Claremont California as Happy Cancer. They played college gigs and developed their sound. I recall speaking with them at the time regarding their love of bands like Mahavishnu Orchestra and Brand X. When they finally decided to try to cut an official release there was some question as to the viability of a name like Happy Cancer. If my memory serves me Gayle Ellet and Chuck Oken were in different bands as the time, with Chuck leading Happy Cancer. Happy Cancer changed their name briefly to Kafka's Breakfast and recorded the four track McMusic for the McMasses. Andrew Frankel played Xylophone and other percussion (and wrote the classic "Tangerine Rabbit Jam") and Ted Ellenhorn played guitar, both of whom have since pursued other careers. A bit later in '82 or early '83 Gayle and Chuck merged their bands and Djam Karet was born. -- Mike Habiby
After a period of relative silence, Djam Karet suddenly became very active again with several new releases. Mike Henderson released a solo album called White Arrow Project and Gayle Ellett and Chuck Oken Jr. released The Waiting Room under the name Ukab Maerd. Look for both of these under their respective entries (though Djam Karet's web site lists The Waiting Room in the DK discography, so I've done the same, in addition to the separate entry). The Ukab Maerd album also features french electronics/guitar icon Richard Pinhas, so I've added him to the [See also] links below.
In addition to these, the whole band has released a new album under the Djam Karet monicker, called The Heavy Soul Sessions. Anyone hoping for a soul album (yeah, right!) is advised to stay away. The current line-up of Djam Karet (for this album) now includes the following: Gayle Ellett (organ, analog synth, mellotron, digital synths), Mike Henderson (electric guitars, ebow and effects), Aaron Kenyon (electric 5-string bass and effects), Mike Murray (electric guitars, ebow and effects), Chuck Oken, Jr. (drums, altered voices). Note that Ellett has abandoned the guitars on this album, and is sticking to keyboards, while Murray is now filling the second guitar slot. Henry Osborne is missing, replaced by Aaron Kenyon ( Atavism of Twilight).
The Heavy Soul Sessions was conceived and recorded after the band returned to the US after headlining The Crescendo Festival in France. The band played music from throughout their 26-year long career, so they decided to record them again live in their studio. They decided to do this without overdubs, compressors or limiters, so what you hear is a very dynamic, punchy sound. The songs they recorded were "Hungry Ghost" and "The Red Threaded Sexy Beast" (an amalgam of "The Red Thread" and "Sexy Beast"), all from A Night For Baku, "Consider Figure Three" from Suspension and Displacement, and "The Packing House" and "The Gypsy and the Hegemon" from Recollection Harvest. Topping this off is the only cover tune the band has ever done, of Richard Pinhas' "Dedicated to K.C.", originally appearing on his 1982 release L'Ethique.
I have several other Djam Karet albums, and I saw them at their NEARFest performance in 2001, and though I've always sorta liked them, they've never really grabbed my attention and made me really enjoy them as much as The Heavy Soul Sessions did. The dynamic, seemingly - totally - improvised - but - can't - be quality, the combination of spaciness, jazz and rock heaviness just seems to be more satisfying than everything I've heard before. I really like this album, which actually appears to be a promissory note for an all-new studio album due out sometime in 2011. After this album has trained me in how to listen to Djam Karet, perhaps I'll be ready to stretch my time correctly enough to really get the new studio album. Maybe I should go back an give the back catalog another chance too ... prog does work like that sometimes. In the meantime, I heartily recommend The Heavy Soul Sessions. -- Fred Trafton
[See Atavism of Twilight |
Henderson, Mike |
Herd of Instinct |
Gardner and Gayle |
Greinke, Jeff |
Pinhas, Richard |
Roach, Steve |
Ukab Maerd |
Click here for the Djam Karet web site
Light Upon Light (78), Ornament Of Hope (79), Early Years (CD Comp. of material from the first two), Ancient Beauty (81), Companions Of The Crimson Coloured Ark (84), World Dance (88).
The band started out as the duo of Ken Laroche (flutes, recorders, piccolo, panpipes, bansri, kalimba, ocarina, khene, harmonium, piano and percussion) and Randy Armstrong (guitars, sitar, vibes, mandolin-harp, xylophone, bells and various percussion). The music at that point was an instrumental acoustic excursion into the proto-world music realm. For the second album, guest musicians were brought in on tablas and clay drums, acoustic bass and persian santoor, resulting in a more full sound which began to point in some progressive directions. The third album, unfortunately, was a little more consevative, relying heavily on classically inspired acoustic guitar and woodwind journeys to balance out the few adventurous tracks. With Companions they blossomed into a full blown five piece, adding the tabla and bass players who guested on the 2nd, plus a new member on soprano sax. Their new sound could be classified as equal parts world music, jazz, and progressive stylings, and is light years ahead of what they had done before. Effect vocals and synthesizer were added, as well as kit drums, in addition to the array of instruments already played. This one is clearly their best. World Dance carried on in a pretty much similar style as Companions, but I'd still reccomend starting with Companions.
Connecting Images (98)
Mountain Flying (99)
Julius Dobos is a very young composer from Hungary who released 2 albums (Connecting Images is very hard to find and may not even be available). The later Mountain Flying being one of the most pleasant surprises of the 1990's. Only 23 at the time of release of Mountain Flying, it is a 50+ minute voyage into beauty.
Featuring guest musicians from Hungary along with the Budapest Choir and North Hungarian Symphony Orchestra, Peter Petjik (After Crying Cellist), this album is a high-production progressive symphony that exploits Eastern European and some world music. References are made to Vangelis and Mike Oldfield and even Ennio Morricone. While some of those references are noticable, they are in just a few places. Julius has his own style and one listen to the gorgeous "New Pangea" (loaded with female voices, bagpipes, mandolins, violins, etc ...) should be enough to convince fans of symphonic rock that mixes classical music together to check this album out. The last track features a touching poem and goes straight to heaven with some beautiful female voices bubbling around a melancholy melody played by Julius on the piano. Cymbals add a powerful soundtrack-like touch. This album comes highly recommended to symph classical and symph progressive music. To label this album as New Age is just not right. There are parts where Julius plays synths similar to what you hear by Vangelis and Mike Oldfield BUT there's a plethoria of other traditional instruments and the compositions are complex enough to satisfy progressive fans. A lot of new age tends to follow a minimalistic approach. This album is not a minimalistic album and there's some beautiful symphonies here. An excellent album (IHMO). I suspect Julius will be replacing Vangelis and Kitaro and Morricone in the near future as a premier soundtrack writer. -- Betta
|Links||Click here for Julius Dobos' web site|
The Mind Electric (86, LP, re-released 1994 on CD w/ bonus tracks)
Studio 21 (94)
Healing Intentions (97)
Reality Chcck (06)
Original entry (since early GEPR days), regarding The Mind Electric:
Dobson is still based in Florida, and has released several other albums besides the one mentioned above (see complete discography above). Most recently, he released Reality Check, a CD/DVD set which has most of the same songs on each. Though the copyright stamps say 2006, it was really released in the beginning of 2007. My copy is actually a CDR and DVD-R set, though with profesionally silkscreened disc labels, and I'm guessing that's what you'll get if you order this set from him as well. Not that that's a bad thing, but it does emphasize the fact that this isn't a big release on a big label, but is independently released by Dobson's own Solar Guitars label, probably being individually burned on an "as required" basis.
It's hard to pidgeonhole this album into a particular category. Dobson seems to describe himself as both "progressive" and "avant garde", and it's hard to argue with either of those descriptions. But it leaves off the glaringly obvious Jimi Hendrix influence, right down to the psychedelic special effects in the video (and a cover of Hendrix' "Voodoo Child"). There are some samples of Dobson's earlier work on the DVD, and I agree with Dave Wayne above ... The Mind Electric is Jazz-fusion. But though I can still hear some influences of that style in Reality Check, he's almost completely ditched the fusion style for the psychedelic '60's Hendrix-type heavy metal. This album is very noisy, with lots of distortion, dissonance (hence the avant-garde label) and screaming feedback soloing. For my taste, it crosses the line into anarchy a bit too much ... enough to make me wonder how much is on purpose and how much is sloppy recording technique. Still, it would be hard to say it's not intriguing. Reality Check again uses Kenwood Dennard (Brand X) on drums, and adds Rael Wesley Grant on 6-string bass, with occasional other guests on violin and organ. However, you won't see them on the DVD, which is all Dobson and psychedelic video effects.
The bottom line is that this is a "guitar god" album (and video). If you don't expect it to be anything else, there's lots to enjoy here. But "progressive" wouldn't be my first choice of a term to describe Reality Check. "The Second Coming of Hendrix" would be closer to the mark. Also, some similarity to Black Sun Ensemble. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Daryll Dobson's
web site (and to order albums)
Entré (73), Fat Dogs and Danishmen (74)
Fusion/Rock-band with seven players, including brass section. The music is like Supersister or Burnin' Red Ivanhoe with more horns. Good stuff, recommended for people interested in the Scandinavian scene. Both LPs (published on the German Zebra label) are equally strong. -- Achim Breiling
Prophetic Obscurities (98, CDR)
Spirit of Brock (98, CDR)
Powered by Beer (05?, Live CDR)
The Alien Within (05?, Live CDR)
Signs (08, 2CD, 1 Studio, 1 Live)
Dr. Hasbeen (Martyn Needham)
Space cadet Dr. Hasbeen (can that possibly be his real name? Nope, it's really Martyn Needham) plus a revolving line-up of musical friends and acquaintances who do a very Hawkwindish brand of space rock. In fact, on their latest (and near as I can tell, first commercial) release, the 2CD Signs, there are several Hawkwind cover tunes, including "Psi Power", "Golden Void", "Silver Machine", "Sonic Attack" and "Master of the Universe". They even have Jane, a nice-looking dancer who gyrates in front of the band, though she isn't quite as ... uhm ... naked as Hawkwind's infamous Stacia was back in the day.
If you're into the Hawkwind-style space rock, Signs is a pretty good album, though you need to expect it to be as rough around the edges as space rock frequently is. Personally, the beautifully-produced, virtuoso-played Gong style appeals more to me in the space rock realms, or even the bluesy, lyrically-intriguing form epitomized by Pink Floyd, but the rougher, more improvisational Hawkwindish style has its charms too. Being under the influence doubtless helps to appreciate this music.
I can't leave without a comment on the Signs album cover ... a group led by a gray alien with four alien/human halfbreeds in sky-blue jumpsuits scout a Stonehenge-like landscape. Their suits are emblazoned with the band logos for Hawkwind, Magma, Blue Oyster Cult and one other "sign" that I don't recognize. The women are both large-breasted, and the men are both well-muscled. The alien is ... well ... your typical tall, thin, sexless almond-eyed gray. A spectacularly cheezy album cover, even though I hear very little influece on this album from either Magma or Blue Oyster Cult. But what the heck? It's still a cool painting. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Dr. Hasbeen's web site
Click here or here for two Dr. Hasbeen MySpace pages
Click here to order Signs from Black Widow Records
Out To Bomb Fresh Kings (85)
Armed Observation (87)
Did Sprinting Die? (90, Live)
Beta 14 OK (91)
Armed Observation / Out to Bomb Fresh Kings (93, the 2 original LP releases on 1 CD)
Every Screaming Ear (97)
Ereia (00, w/ Sirius String Quartet)
Absolutely psycho Cuneiform ensemble let by guiatrist Nick Didkovsky who decided to take Henry Cow-ish music make it even harder to listen to and wrote a computer program that would let his computer write the most inhuman and bizarrely distorted music ever. Basically, I can take only about five minutes of it, but in these five minutes I am severely challenged and wonder if alien music could sound like this. Only for the VERY VERY VERY adventurous.
It's difficult to describe this music by comparison, Nerve is truly out there by themselves. The band, led by guitarist Nick Didkovsky, seems to involve a rotating cast of characters around the central core of Didkovsky, Dave Douglas on Trumpet, Yves Duboin on soprano sax, Michael Lytle on bass clarinet, and Marc Wagnon on piano and vibes. Drums were handled by James Mussen on the first two albums, and by Leo Ciesa on the third. Bass guitar was provided by Kyle Sims and Mike Leslie on the first two, Greg Anderson on the third. In addition there are various other players adding saxes, violins and other instruments to the mix. The sound is definitely in the jazz-rock vein, very angular, with constant changes in time sig, tempo, and instrumentation, all delivered at an almost unbelievable high energy level. Songs are sometimes separated with little tape bits, voices, solos, all spliced together to form a seamless though jagged whole, much in the way Zappa does. That these guys like to experiment playing in difficult time signatures is an understatement - sometimes they play in three or four different time signatures at the same time. The music is challenging, and often not pretty. Melodies are torn apart and patched back together, dissonance is rampant, and sometimes the whole mix disintegrates into a noisy mix of squeaking reeds and feedback, only to return again to the original theme. But everything is very precise and tightly arranged, these guys can really play. On the third album Beta 14 OK, there are several songs which were composed and arranged entirely by a computer program without human intervention, and subsequently performed by the band, a series of odder-than-usual tracks titled "Nerveware" parts 1, 2 and 3. This disc clocks in at around 40 minutes but contains no less than 60 tracks, the last 44 of which are collectively titled "Nerve Events" and range from two to six seconds each, the idea being to allow the listener to reprogram all of these short bits in various orders or set the player on random mode, creating a new piece from all the pieces. It's a good workout for your CD player, if nothing else. The first two albums Out To Bomb Fresh Kings and Armed Observation are a little more straight-ahead and easier to sink your teeth into, tracks with a harder edge and less experimentation for experimentations sake. Having both of them on one CD makes for an excellent 70+ minutes of non-stop high energy. There is rumored to be a live CD recorded between the second and third titled Did Sprinting Die?, supposedly representing one complete live show. I've never seen it, but I am trying to find a copy. It's hard to imagine how these guys could pull this off live. All their albums have been released on CD.
|What can I say ... this band is strange. BUT, sometimes that just what is needed. On Armed Observation we are presented with an album full of dissonance and experimentation with taping and studio effects. And yet ... somehow it works. This is not a band for everyone. In fact I could see where a great many would really dislike it. But if you were in the mood for something truly experimental and truly challenging then give this band a chance.|
|Dr. Nerve, led by guitarist Nick Didkovsky, is a "member" of the downtown New York City fusion scene. Characterized by talented playing of extremely complex, angular and dissonant avant-garde jazz fusion, Dr. Nerve can take nerves of steel to get through, at least on Beta 14 OK, the only disc I currently have. What makes this particular work so unique is that at least parts of these songs were composed by software written by Didkovsky especially for Dr. Nerve. Instrumentation consists of guitar, bass, drums, vibes, trumpets, vocals, sax and clarinets. As far as I'm concerned, some of the songs are not much more than walls of noise while others are fantastic turn-on-a-dime bouts of musicianship. Beta 14 OK also contains 44 "Nerve Events" which are brief (generally several seconds) sound bites that you are supposed to arrange into your own unique musical score. I can't try it because my CD player doesn't register above 19 songs so I can only access the first three samples. Some of the earlier albums, such as Armed Observation are supposed to be better places to start. Recommended to those into avant experimentalism, heavy RIO, etc., NOT to the symphonic crowd.|
|Links||[See Iconoclast | Tunnels]|
Kip Of The Serenes (69)
Heavy Petting (70)
Three Parts to My Soul (71)
Original entry 11/23/01:
Dr. Z is a not very famous English band of early '70's. Their music has a very simple rhythmic base and is obsessive, esoteric, peculiar, with very long piano and organ solos, baroque melodies and Satanic lyrics. The band published the album Three Parts of My Soul, a philosophical concept album, that is a rarity of the catalog of Vertigo (only 80 copies for the first edition). [Dr. Z was] Keith Keyes (lead vocals, keyboards), Bob Watkins (drums) and Rob Watson (bass). -- Ferdinando Santonicola
Only 80 copies of Three Parts to My Soul was originally pressed, making it a rare collector's item. The original pressing had a "gimmick" folding cover, similar to ELP's Brain Salad Surgery cover. Several CD reissues from Korean Si-Wan, Italian Akarma and a Japanese reissue imitate this cover. A new Korean limited LP release on red vinyl is currently available from BTF, also with the "gimmick" cover. -- Fred Trafton
Late Night Movies, All Night Brainstorms (76), Figments of Emancipation (76), Sons of Survival (78), The Doctors of Madness (78)
Twin Sunrise (95)
Album is the first production for this Brazilian group of four
musicians on guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. Marcus Viana (violin)
guests on one of the tracks which, all instrumental, are played in a very
British style dominated by melodies and symphonic
arrangements of keyboards.
Guitar solos in the Steve Rothery or Steve
Hackett style are also present. A rich sounding music where fairly simple
compositions show limited inspiration. Nevertheless, a quality production and
performances that are true to the usual style make the listening enjoyable.
Twin Sunrise is the second production for this Brazilian group of four musicians on guitars, keyboards, bass and drums. Guests contribute vocals (in English) and strings on a few tracks and give another dimension to Dogma's sound. The guitar playing and the arrangements remain very British (Marillion) but the compositions are now more inspired and better crafted. Still very melodic and relying on symphonic keyboard arrangements, the music now incorporates elements that make more dynamic and less predictable.-- Paul Charbonneau
|Several former members of Jade Warrior who have teamed up to for a new band. Dogstar Poets' first album is said to be "a strong and tasty work, which will probably appeal to fans of Jade Warrior's first few albums." -- Fred Trafton (from the Friends of Jade Warrior web site)|
[See Jade Warrior]
Click here for Dogstar Poets' web site
DOM (72, aka Edge of Time)
"DOM" is a term used (at least in Germany) for a two day acid trip. These guys were obviously deep in the heart of their trip and near whatever boundary holds this universe together when they recorded DOM, which is also (incorrectly) known as Edge of Time. The music seems almost pure and abstract improvisation, an atmosphere sustained for the entire album. The music is a very dreamy and ethereal amalgam of two flutes, Mellotron, organ and guitar. Definitely one to be listened to late at night with many lit candles and, if you choose, under the influence.
|Another great band from the Czech Republic. They published their single (as far as I know) release Nedele (which means Sunday) in 1992. The music is neo-classical prog, reminds of Art Zoyd or Univers Zero, but with a stronger rock-feel. The six musicians (drums/xylophone/piano, bass, keyboards/synths, cello, guitar and something called electric housle) develop a sinister and melancholic mood, with mostly female vocals in Czech. "Indiani milujou hory" (Indians love the mountains) is a very dark song, with deep and desperate vocals (this time a man), that reminds of Univers Zero's "La Faulx" (from Heresie). This CD is an interesting addition to the neo-classic field, recommended to all friends of Univers Zero and Art Zoyd. -- Achim Breiling|
1 (80), 2 (81), 3 (81), 4 (82)
After the spilt of Wire (the British new wave/punk band) B.C. Gilbert and G. Lewis realised their musical ideas under the name of Dome. They published 4 LPs with quite experimental avantgarde stuff. You find a lot of instruments here and several guest players. The style is reminiscent of these early wave/avantgarde bands like Tuxedomoon, Cabaret Voltaire or This Heat. So if you like these, give Dome a listen. All four Dome LPs have been reissued on 2 CDs by Mute. -- Achim Breiling
For Respect (93)
Don Caballero 2 (95)
What Burns Never Returns (98)
Singles Breaking Up (99, Compilation from EP singles in '92 and '93)
American Don (00)
Don Caballero - Mike Banfield (guitar), Damon Che (drums) and Ian Williams (guitar)
Don Caballero, whose name is usually high on the list of exemplars for the prog-related musical genre of Math Rock, were formed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1991 by Damon Che (drums), Ian Williams (guitar), Mike Banfield (guitar) and Pat Morris (bass). They released a few EP's on minor labels from 1991 to 1993, then signed to Chicago label Touch and Go through which they released their first three full length albums and a compilation album Singles Breaking Up, comprised of the earlier singles. Shortly after the release of What Burns Never Returns, Banfield left to form a new band, Storm and Stress, whose bassist Eric Emm also joined Don Caballero after Pat Morris' departure. Thus, they were a trio for their fourth album, American Don.
Part way through their American Don tour in 2000, the band split up due to internal tensions. Damon Che played guitar (not drums!) in several other projects, and later re-formed Don Caballero with an entirely new line-up, merging with another Pittsburgh-based Don Caballero-influenced band formerly known as Creta Bourzia. They have been touring in 2005, but so far (as of 11/30/05) have not released any recordings. -- Fred Trafton
|Though this instrumental group who records in Chicago on Touch and Go would not be considered prog-rock, they are progressive and do operate in a rock format (drum/bass/guitar). However, the musical perspective of this band is more textural, even minimal (though often quite heavy), drawing influence from Steven Reich as much as from King Crimson. Thoroughly original and challenging in structure and tone, Don Caballero provide a fascinating and odd journey through a music you have to listen to, not just play. If you appreciate Tortoise, Robert Fripp, and Steven Reich, Don Caballero may make you smile. -- David Marshall|
Click here for what seems
to be the official Don Caballero web site
Click here for a Don Caballero fan web site
Idaho Transfer (76)
Prog. Private Pressing.
The Butterfly Effect (00)
Editor's note: Normally, I would not include
reviews by the bands themselves in the GEPR. But the following article, written by
Double Helix themselves specifically for the GEPR, contains mostly interesting background
info on the band and doesn't read as blatant advertising. Therefore I see no conflict of
interest with including it, especially since I will be including a review of their CD
myself at a later date. -- Fred Trafton
Double Helix are a symphonic progressive rock band (although not all of their songs could be placed in that category). The band was formed in early 1999 by Jill Arroway and Sandy Leigh, two musicians having very different backgrounds. Double Helix therefore represents the fusion of these two different styles: Jill Arroway is a contemporary classical composer and soprano; Sandy Leigh is an established vocalist, keyboard player, and songwriter of many years experience (most famously known from her days in neo-progressive band Solstice). Although some of the songs on The Butterfly Effect represent individual ideas from the past for which the band members had had no previous outlet, the bulk of the album shows clearly this fusion of genres, with songs demonstrating complex orchestration combined with powerful vocal lines. -- Jill Arroway and Sandy Leigh
Double Helix's debut CD has its charms and flaws. The music is all over the map,
or at least all over the electronic keyboard map. Because, aside from the vocals,
that's pretty much all there is for instruments. Some of the songs are definitely
progressive, but many are more like new-wave or neo-classical, and all are very
minimalist in their orchestration. The drums are synthesized, and not very
convincingly. Actually, they sound like the cheap drum patterns found on
home organs. The keyboard sounds Jill chooses are very stark and synthetic sounding,
and makes for a very "techno" feel to the music, even when the songwriting would
seem to call for something warmer, like the medieval-flavored or neo-classical
pieces. The piano patch on this synth, which Jill seems to insist on using a lot,
is just plain awful. For other pieces, this minimalist techno approach seems to work
better when the songwriting is patterned around the sound. "Watch the Code" is a
good example of this ... it's a techno song about a techno subject, so it works
Jill Arroway's voice is very ethereal, breathy and "voice-trained" sounding, which also strikes a discord with the buzzing oscillators of the synthesizers. I'll go so far as to say I don't like her voice, at least not with these song arrangements. It frequently sounds out of tune with the music, though I really think this is an illusion caused by the tinny synthesizer textures she is choosing for her compositions. Examples of this are "Seventh Star" (especially) and "Disconnect", which sometimes sounds like the voice is singing the melody for a different song than the keyboards are playing. Sandy Leigh's voice is more like a traditional female rock singer's style, though at the high end of the range. Some other reviewers have complained about her vocals as well, but for myself, I like her style, and her delivery is all that saves some of the weaker tunes. Her compositions are also the most progressive-sounding of the CD, perhaps influenced by her former band Solstice.
I think I can sum up my feelings about this CD in this way: "These ladies are pretty good songwriters, but they need a band bad". This CD has all the inadequacies of many "I did everything myself" albums. Sadly, it also shows great promise, but never quite delivers. I would recommend that you buy this CD just to support these two and encourage them to do another CD. There's a good chance that the rough edges will be knocked off enough by that time that it could be really excellent, especially if they could find a real drummer to work with, and some other instrumentalists, whether this is a guitar player or something more innovative ... several of the pieces have a synthesized violin solo which would have been much better done by a real violinist, for example. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Double Helix web site
World (89), Garana (92)
Italian project of the three synth players Pier Luigi Andreoni, Ricardo Sinigaglio and Francesco Paladino. On their two records apear a lot of guest players, for example Chris Karrer (Amon Duul, Embryo) on guitar. The music is mostly quiet meditative stuff, with some folk or medieval influences. In some pieces they sing in some strange italian dialect, that even an italien friend of mine could not understand! Very nice stuff, higly recommended!! -- Achim Breiling
A Fine Stormy Weather (96)
Impressive 90's prog from Spain. I have A Fine Stormy Weather on CD from Musea and compared to a great deal of 90's prog this gets a big thumbs up. Nicely packaged by Musea, the booklet includes nice artwork/lyrics and band photos. Musically, the first one thinks of is Camel. Dracma have an obvious Camel sound overall but with other more Spanish influences thrown in as well, such as Bloque etc, especially with the domineering guitar work. Also certain moments recall Anderson/Bruford/Wakeman/Howe. Opening track, "Beating Life" is impressive, plenty of Latimer-like guitar and some intersting dynamics in the rhythm section, while the brief acoustic guitar interlude, "Portrait of Falgars" is a nice Steve Howe-ish piece. The 10 minute "Inner Castle" will keep keyboard fans happy with plenty of Wakeman-esque trills livening up the proceedings. All the tracks, bar two. are in the 7-11 minute range, culminating with the 11-minute plus mini-epic, "Inside Out". The album is beautifully produced, managing to sound modern (but not too clean) and old at the same time. On the minus side, the Spanish inflection on the English lyrics can grate at times while the guitar tone never really changes throughout. (Although the same criticism could probably be levelled at the great Camel themselves!!) Overall, a very worthwhile buy. I'd give it a solid 8/10 but for big fans of Camel, or Spanish acts like Bloque, maybe more. Dracma are certainly no slouches any! -- David Abel
|Links||Click here for an interview with Dracma in Progressive Newsletter|
Dragon (76), Kalahen (86, recorded 77?)
Prototypical 70's Belgian band. They appear to have a multitude of influences, from Jazz to any of a number of American 60's psychedelic bands, to the french bands of the time such as Atoll. The album is a very mixed bag, featuring six longish tracks with English vocals, a lot of extended instrumental passages with some heavy guitar Jams a-la Quicksilver or Iron Butterfly, some folksy stuff reminiscent of Beau Brummels, Jeff Airplane or the Animals. Singer is lousy, and overall it's pretty lame, and would've been better left as a rare LP.
Universal Radio (74)
Scented Gardens for the Blind (75)
Sunshine (77, a.k.a. Dragon)
Running Free (77)
O Zambesi (78)
Are You Old Enough (78, Compilation)
Greatest Hits Vol. 1 (79, Compilation)
Power Play (79)
Body and the Beat (84)
... several more releases & compilations
|First two albums recorded in New Zealand are progressive rock. Scented Gardens ... is based around a full organ sound with occasional Mellotron, along with the nice voice of Mark Hunter. The style is not unlike early British prog bands such as Fantasy, Cressida, Beggars Opera and the like. Universal Radio is said to be similar. Subsequent albums were made in Australia and are pop-orientated. Not really of interest to prog fans, except perhaps Powerplay, which seems to be an attempt to imitate Roxy Music. -- Mike Ohman|
|Links||Click here, here or here for slightly contradictory info|
Swiss five-piece that released one self titled album in 1981 on the highfly label. Although the sound is somewhat ELP influenced, the emphasis is more on piano, which creates a flowing musical tapestry with the guitars and rhythm section fairly unique in style. The songs alternate between rock and more melodic progressives culminating in the sidelong title track. Vocals are good, reminiscent of Island's Pictures. One stinky pop love song on side 1 tho...
Almost Abandoned (74)
Melodic, laid-back prog. Not to be confused with Swiss band or the US acid psych band from 1968.
What Day Is It? (93)
Little Black Train (96)
Medallion Animal Carpet(99)
Bob Drake (the best photo I can find of him on the WWW!)
He is a cornerstone of American avant-prog music, esp. in the 80's. Is a member of Thinking Plague, was in 5UU's and involved in various ReR related projects. Multi-instrumentalist who alone can record a stream of albums and he does so. Playing guitars, bass, drums, violin, keys, he also constructed his own instruments and is also a great sound engineer and "masterer". He also sings, although I find his way of singing somewhat restrained but I like both the sound and a color of voice. His "one man band" approach deliver us results of a proper band, so it sounds like a quartet or even quintet. While heading from avant-prog/new music circles, his solo work doesn't sound "strangely strange", but rather "oddly normal".
On Little Black Train I trace elements of Giants, Plagues, Beefheart, american contempo classical music, instrumental country (has stressed role on this album and of which I know is mostly much better than with vocals added), bluegrass, cajun, and so on, everything well mixed together in somewhat quirky way. He decided to combine American "native" music with contemporary sounds and so he does resembling Nimal or Univers Zero in a way. (Both groups searched through East-european ethnic sounds.) He is also in constant search for dissonances which can sound as real harmonies. He blends chords with dischords in a well-structured manner, so usually they're fairly listenable. Examples of such artistry can be heard on "Haunted Land" and "Unlit Galaxies", for example. Unfortunately these two tracks (as well as few others) are a bit too short. Personally I'd like if they'd be at least two minutes longer. But it seems that Bob likes miniatures, because...
Medallion Animal Carpet boasts with them. I'm going to describe this album more thoroughly 'cause it is truly interesting. It contains 24 tracks, which are in average minute and a half short. The album is divided into three sections subtitled Part 1, 2 and 3. Part 1 is made of first 16 songs, Part 2 of next 7 and Part 3 solely of a closing number. Why such a division, dunno, but this seems to add something more to out-of-touch-iness of this album. Bob is helped (on certain tracks) by: two members of Thinking Plague (Mark Fuller and Mark McCoin), Chris Cutler, ReR-leader and Henry Cow member, Stevan Tickmayer (of Tickmayer Formatio), French saxist Jason Dumars and Tim Gadd. Tickmayer, Dumars and Gadd have recorded their parts in their home-studios in France (Orleans), Oregon and on Tasmania respectively, while Bob and rest of the crew have been recording somewhere in Pyrenees (France also). I guess post-office was involved in the effort to certain extent. Tracks no. 13-23 are made by Bob playing all necessary instruments. Music of Medallion is... phew, well Part 1 one is unbelievably, almost schizophreniacally ecclectic, yet it is very good. At the first listen I was just made sit down with eyes and mouth wide open, while my ears became an elephant ones. All 16 miniatures represent a total mixture of many music genres. "Plagued", vanguard country music from Black Train blends with or mutates into electro-industrial noises, dark ambients and electroacoustics, with urbane and waltz-rhytms and vice versa. Darkened moments which appeared on Black Train are here in full-bloom, i.e. finely sonically treated. Lyrics are sung very quickly, especially when they are longer and have to be sung in minute or even shorter time-interval. Some of them are made by the help of freeware programme named Spagetti, a random sentence generator which uses one's own vocabulary. That programme makes genuine non-senses, comparable to the works of French surrealists minus rhythm, rhyme and so on, but which fit well to the vanguard music (me thinks). From another aspect, Part 1 can be seen as a collage of outtakes of all possible sources, which form kinda musical labyrinth, in which, I must confess, even I got lost within the first "go-throughs". But with subsequent listens "audions" have cleansed themselves. Overall, a grand collage that. Part 2 is actually sorta noisy country, recorded with the jacks of cables not well-connected with amplifiers. There are some ol' country songs (some of unknown authors), full of screeches, buzzes and different whinings. Interesting but not so intense (and of course varied) as Part 1. In short, MAC is criminally intriguing, very intense work which demands more listens. Practically non-stop something happens. With other words, Bob at his most "oddly normal".
Bob Drake makes music which is more demanding, but he (as well as other ReR artists) stands for freshness in progressive/new musics. If one likes 5UU's, Thinking Plague and other more experimental ReR bands and artists, one could check one or even all of his albums out. While Medallion sounds quite good to me, other, less new music oriented listeners should rather start with the Black Train. Recommended!! -- Nenad Kobal
[See 5uu's |
Click here for Bob Drake's web site
Flying Over the Twenty-First Century (98)
|The music offered on Drama is completely instrumental and involves five musicians on guitars, basses, keyboards, drums and percussions. The compositions are mostly those of the guitarist who, despite a solid performance, barely conceals his lack of inspiration (numerous cliches). With modest implication from the keyboards, it's the dynamic energy of the rhythm section that certainly brings life to the tracks. In absence of originality, the bands relies on precise execution of a familiar symphonic rock, except for the occasionally exotic (African, Latin) flavour of it's rhythms. An quality production, easily accessible, that barely distances itself from the usual standards. -- Paul Charbonneau|
Una Vez Mas (00)
The American Standard (01)
Musica En Flagrante (04)
Live at Mojo (05, 2CD, Live)
Dreadnaught - Justin Walton (guitar), Tim Haney (drums) and Bob Lord (bass)
Dread was what I felt when I gave The American Standard its first spin on my CD player. Dreadnaught had been described as "Zappa meets Yes at Willie Nelson's BBQ" (Boston Soundcheck) or "King Crimson at a hoedown" (Showcase) and "Progabilly" (by the band themselves). I didn't know how anything with such descriptions could possibly appeal to me, given my admitted snobbish disgust with anything to do with country music. But, for anyone else who's apprehensive, let me allay your fears: Dread Naught listening to this CD (ouch!), for it is truly full of incredible sounds you've never heard before!
Yes, there are definite "country music" influences ... very rockabilly ones, we're not talking Willie Nelson or even Garth Brooks here. Maybe more like a really tripped out, ornate and angry version of the Stray Cats. There are also '90's King Crimsonish screaming guitars, Steve Howeish solos and strange vocal harmonies. There's occasionally a lick or two that reminds of The Dixie Dregs, though without as much in the way of fusion elements. Among the terse rhythmical complexity and odd meters, there are also outbursts of melody and vocal harmonies, handclaps and psychedelic murmering voices. If there are any keyboards at all, they're definitely not in a dominant role on The American Standard (except for track 3, "Deneb", which has a bit of techno flavor mixed in with it), though perhaps there's a smattering of piano here and there. There are several excellent guest artists to do occasional violin and flute solos, but these are just icing on the cake.
I asked Bob Lord, the band's bassist, why they chose "Dreadnaught" as a band name. His answer was entertaining enough that I'll quote him:
"The name thing is a good question, we just kind of picked it right before our first gig while we were strumming acoustic guitars. It was a live radio show, and at the time the band had three people (myself included) who had strong local/regional reputations so we initially were just presenting it as a collaboration amongst us. But we said what the hell... and next thing you know it it is 6 years later, your music sounds more like Aaron Copland than Van Morrison or Otis Redding, and you've got a name that most people think belongs to a reggae band! You know, if we were a straight up rock band the shock wouldn't be so great ... but you should see the look on the faces of those dreadlocked folks when they realize with horror that we're not going to play anything remotely Bob Marley-ish! The 'Dreadnaught' was also a class of British battleship I believe, and I have been told it was also a GI Joe action figure back in the day. But like Stanley Kubrick, I choose to leave the interpretation up to the audience!"
"Progabilly" really isn't a bad way to describe Dreadnaught, "Prog" first and "billy" as an add-on. There are no concessions here for radio airplay or danceability (though, I suppose, some of these songs would be danceable by hard-core fans who really knew the songs ... I've seen stranger stuff danced to). Only the most rabid of country music hating prog snobs would find any problem with this album. I am a country music hating prog snob, and I think The American Standard rocks! Bob Marley fans should stay away. Otherwise, recommended! -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for Dreadnaught's web site|
Get Dreamy (68)
When Dream And Day Unite (89)
Images and Words (92)
Live At The Marquee (93, Live)
A Change of Seasons (95)
Falling Into Infinity (97)
Once in a LIVEtime (98, Live 2CD)
Metropolis Part 2: Scenes From A Memory (99)
Through Her Eyes (00, Live & Alternate mixes)
Live Scenes from New York (01, Live 3CD)
Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence (02)
Train of Thought (03)
Live At Budokan (04, Live 3CD)
Score - 20th Anniversary World Tour (06, Live, 3CD)
Score - 20th Anniversary World Tour (06, Live, 2DVD, w/ bonus materials and 1-hour documentary)
Systematic Chaos (07)
Systematic Chaos (Special Edition) (07, CD+DVD)
Black Clouds & Silver Linings (09, in 1 or 3 CD versions)
Dream Theater (1999 and beyond lineup) - Clockwise from upper left: John Petrucci (guitars),
Mike Portnoy (drums), John Myung (bass), James LaBrie (vocals) and Jordan Rudess (keyboards).
The first of two new Dream Theater overviews, added 5/7/05:
I wrote my original Dream Theater write-up when I first took over the GEPR about 4 years ago now. At that time, I attempted to address the standard "are they progressive or not?" discussion. After now reviewing hundreds of bands, this argument has become increasingly pointless as far as I'm concerned; DT was simply one of the first bands to popularize a style which had begun to be called "prog-metal". Since that time, so many bands have jumped on the bandwagon (and many other, older experimental metal bands have been re-categorized into this genre) that the discussion about the progressiveness of the band is moot. If you're an old prog fan who thinks that Yes, Genesis, ELP and Gentle Giant define the genre, then there's not much point in arguing ... Dream Theater has very few reference points that owe much to these bands, and so are not prog. On the other hand, if you don't give a damn about whether or not a band is following the "correct style" of being "prog" and are simply looking for groups that re-define what popular music is supposed to sound like, and do so with technical agility, inventive lyrics and an exciting performance style, then DT is definitely prog. We might as well be arguing pro-life vs. pro-choice here ... the two sides have each circled their wagons and no arguments on either side are going to sway the other side. So this article is for those who already believe that DT belongs in the GEPR. If you think they don't, then I suggest you skip on to another entry, because nothing I'm going to say here is likely to change your mind. I can only tell you how each album feels to me (admittedly an "old school" progger).
DT's first album When Dream And Day Unite was actually the third album by them I heard, after Awake (first) and Images And Words (second). Before then, I had decided that DT was the most incredible new band I had ever heard, and I was working backwards through their catalog to find out where these guys were coming from. As much as I liked Awake and Images And Words, I found When Dream And Day Unite to be quite disappointing. I listened to it at least half a dozen times ... I really wanted to like this album, and thought that I was simply missing the point. But I wasn't. This is a relatively uninspired album, sounding like many other '80's hair-metal bands, trying to be profound and inspiring but instead simply coming across as arrogant and pompous without any musical "meat" to back up the attitude. It took me awhile to realize that this had a lot to do with the fact that they had not yet acquired James Labrie as vocalist, and were probably emulating Queensrÿche a bit too much; the album therefore was flat and ... to my ears ... boring. DT cultists who believe that the band can do no wrong will doubtless find this statement to be heresy, but I can't help it. When Dream And Day Unite bores me to tears, and I haven't put it on again since my original attempt to get into it.
When researching what others said about Images and Words when it came out, I'm astounded at the amount of vitriol I read in the press regarding this release. To my ears, this album is a quantum leap above When Dream And Day Unite in every concievable way. The compositions are more complex, the vocals are exquisite, the lyrical content more intellectually stimulating and the keyboards better integrated into the overall sound. Over and above all that, the recording quality is also much better, so I really don't get why anyone thought this album was a "sellout". Some of the cuts on this album are still among my favorite DT recordings, and it stands out as one of the finest metal (prog or not) albums ever put together.
But as much as I enjoyed Images and Words, it is still a sketch in charcoals of DT's finest moment up to that time, Awake. As I mentioned before, Awake was the first DT effort I ever heard. To be honest, I had never heard of them when I bought the CD, and I had also never heard the term "progressive metal" (this was way before I became the editor of the GEPR). I bought it because ... do you already know what I'm going to say? ... it had a cool album cover and the band's name was interesting. When I first put it on, I almost shut it off at first. The screaming vocals, chugging gutars and everything-distorted-like-hell sound was an immediate turn-off. But I noticed some interesting composition, particularly when they slowed down a bit on the more ballady cuts. On the second listen, I started noticing the keyboards, which had at first sounded too much like the guitars for me to notice them. In retrospect, I can't believe I couldn't hear them; they're certainly mixed clearly enough in the mix. It's just not the way I expected keyboards to sound. And that vocalist ... he wasn't really screaming; he was exactly on-pitch with great control of vocal slides and vibrato. Sorta like Roger Daltrey (who I recall my parents always describing as "screaming" ... did I really want to be as judgmental as my parents?) And that drummer [Mike Portnoy of course] ... I've hadn't heard such precision since Bill Bruford's Bruford band albums, only more metal and rock oriented ... and recorded "in yer face" punchy without stepping all over the other instruments. By the third listening I was hooked, and decided that they had invented a new form of prog and I wanted to get everything they had as quickly as possible. You've already heard my reaction in the previous paragraphs.
Their next album, A Change of Seasons is one of my favorites and one of my least favorites simultaneously. Kevin Moore had left the band and they had recruited a new guy to fill the keyboard role ... Derek Sherinian. ACoS was a "filler" album put out to keep DT fans happy while the band was working on a new "real" studio album. It consists of a "Side One" of a studio recording of the "A Change of Seasons" suite, a lengthy piece the band had been playing in concert for awhile but which had never been recorded. This is the part of the album I like, and perhaps the most "prog" in the old-fashioned sense that DT has ever committed to recording media. "Side Two" is a bunch of arrangements of rock classics played in DT's metallic style. Nobody should really ever play an Elton John tune in a metal style. It just grates on my nerves, and I don't really care for this part of the album. Still, this album is definitely worth having for the "A Change of Seasons" suite. I really thought that if this was what was coming on their "real" next album, they were going to cement their place in my mind as one of the all-time great prog bands.
Sadly, it was not to be, for their next album was Falling Into Infinity, which I said at the time (and still believe) would have been better titled Falling Into a Coma, which was how I felt every time I listened to it. Like When Dream And Day Unite, I really wanted to like this album, and listened to it front-to-back about half a dozen times. But, it sounds like what I believe it was ... dashed off compositions slapped together in limited studio time and trying to appeal to a broader range of listeners. There's nothing startlingly bad about the album, but it's just lackluster and pedestrian compared to their previous efforts. DT had fallen from musical godhood in my mind ... no longer was I one of those fans who believed every album was divinely inspired and that the band can do no wrong.
Their next release, Once in a LIVETime was panned by most critics, and since it contained much material from Falling ... and was supposed to be less than stellar in recording quality, I gave this album a miss. So far nothing I've read or heard since has convinced me I missed anything with this move. But I was still hoping for a new studio album, even after being disappointed by the last one.
So, when they released Metropolis 2: Scenes From a Memory in 1999, I was skeptical. But I thought that Derek Sherinian might have been part of the problem (though after seeing him at NEARFest 2004 with his new band Planet X, I no longer believe this) and they had signed on a new keyboard guy I'd never heard of before ... Jordan Rudess; I hoped this might breathe some new life into the band. Well, I don't know if it was Rudess, divine inspiration from above or just a batch of really good drugs, but Scenes is a simply spectacular album, and would be my first recommendation for an "old school progger" who doesn't like prog metal to see if they can find some interest in this kind of music. Scenes is a concept album with lots of instrumentals and blistering virtuosic soloing, odd time signatures, very complex harmonies and counterpoint, interesting studio work and effects, lots of mood changes and a huge amount of pompous egotism. There are even musical paraphrases from other progressive bands in evidence, including Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd. What more do you need to be progressive? Oh, yes, there is one more thing you need ... the musical ability to pull off an epic this big without screwing it up. And, for this album, DT pulls it off without a hitch, creating what in my mind is their ultimate masterpiece. I recommend this album as highly as I can to everyone who will listen to me and I still play it often.
Convinced that DT had regained their footing as a band, I picked up the 3-CD Live Scenes From New York, which turns out to be an excellent live recording of Scenes From a Memory material and a bunch of other stuff. Not an absolutely essential release, but if you're a DT fan, there is much to recommend this album, including the recording quality.
The next release is Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence. Once more, I find myself in the position of really wanting to like an album that leaves me cold. The vocal material sounds strained (lyrically, I mean), and even pseudo-intellectual sometimes, to the point where I'm rolling my eyes saying, "guys, what makes you think THIS is a topic for a rock song?". It's preachy and whiney, and I can't even figure out which side of the issue they're supporting. The playing is all technically perfect ... to the point that it sounds cold and robotic. I don't really know what it is about this album that I don't like, but it just never did a thing for me. Like the other albums I don't care for before it, I listened to this double CD at least half a dozen times before relegating it to my CD shelf to never be opened again (well, so far at least).
Since then, DT released Train of Thought in 2003, another studio effort. Given their past record, I'll either love it or despise it, but as of today I still haven't heard it. When I do, I'll give you my opinion of whether it's another masterpiece or just a piece of ... uhm ... junk ... yeah, that's what I was going to say. Piece of junk. -- Fred Trafton
I don't know what is is about this album that makes it stand out, but for my tastes in prog-metal, Systematic Chaos is one of the standout albums in the genre. Excellent compositions, interesting lyrics, haunting chord progressions (there's even one cut that sounds like "DT interprets Floyd", though Petrucci's soloing doesn't sound at all like Gilmour), killer drumming, juggernaut bass lines ... oh, yeah, Dream Theater is back! Now I want to go back and hear Octavarium to see if I misjudged that one too on account of Six Degrees .... I'll let you know what I think if/when I do. -- Fred Trafton
Whatever the reason other people liked this album, I like it because it's got great music on it. I got the three-CD version of the album, with the "regular" CD release of the new album, plus two bonus discs. One of the bonus discs is a set of mixes of just the music with no vocals. As much as I like James LaBrie's singing, I must say this is an interesting album in its own right. Karaoke anyone? I had visions of using these as "basic tracks" with my own added keyboards, solos, and lyrics. Of course, I'll never actually get around to doing that, but it's still nice to dream. The second bonus disc is an album of "covers", a bit like the second half of A Change of Seasons. But unlike that album's song choices, I like all the songs on this disc, most especially their cover of "Larks Tongues in Aspic, Part 2" with guest violinist Jerry Goodman (Mahavishnu Orchestra) filling in for David Cross. It's just possible it's even better than the original, and I love the original. I never thought of Lark's Tongues in Aspic as a prog-metal album before, but after hearing this, I'm saying, "Hell, yeah! It's probably the first prog-metal album." Well, isn't it?
As far as the main album, it sounds like Dream Theater ... plenty of chugging chords, soaring fast-paced solos, LaBrie's signature vocals (and also vocals from both Portnoy and Petrucci), and of course great keyboards and continuum (don't ask me ... I have no idea) from Jordan Rudess. My favorite cut is "A Nightmare to Remember", a story about being a victim of a car accident. A bit like that '60's hit "D.O.A." in concept, but far superior in execution (and the singer doesn't die at the end of the song). "The Shattered Fortress" is the final installment of Portnoy's "12-step Cycle", and might be seen as preachy if you're trying to avoid Alcoholics Anonymous (or any of its sister organizations that use the 12-step approach), but it's not bad, though in my view, at 12:49, perhaps a bit longer than it needed to be. The "side long" epic, "The Count of Tuscany" (19:16) is also good, but hasn't yet sunk in with me well enough to get totally enthused about. Perhaps a few more listens ... FWIW, this is the cut I really thought I'd like to write my own lyrics to (it's the subject matter that leaves me a bit cold, so far) and record my own version using the instrumental-only mix as a backdrop.
In the end, I'd call this a really good album, though so far I'd place it (barely) below Systematic Chaos on my favorites list. But it's still a fine album, and worthy of your attention if you're into prog-metal at all. -- Fred Trafton
The second of two new Dream Theater overviews, added 5/7/05:
Although many proggers (especially the older ones) consider DT a hair-metal, or pop-metal band that isn't progressive, they are not, and the people that said that are very wrong. I will explain why in a quick view of their CD's and history.
DT in their 17 years career (until 2003) have proved to be one of the most important and influential prog bands in the nineties. They are (Portnoy (D), Petrucci (G), Myung (B), and they had different singers and keymen during their existence. But then why prog and not just pop-metal? Well, if you have the possibility to pick at leat 4 CD's of the band and hear them you will know what I talk about.
First pick the first one, When Dream And Day Unite. Released in 1989 this CD shows rock music from the eighties: pop-metal (especially in the singer, Charlie Dominici) with a very notorious Queensrÿche and Rush influence; with a poor production and not very interesting. But anyways it contains tracks that show what would be DT in later years, like "Light Fuse And Get Away" and "Only A Matter Of Time", that have a lot of chops and "arhythmic" unexpected moments. After the singer left the band (because he wasn't capable, and also because WDADU was a [critical and financial] failure) the rest of the band started to write material for the next album and started to search [for] a new singer. This process takes 2+ years, and when he [James LaBrie] arrived they recorded their second album.
1992's Images and Words has 2 parts, the first that contains hair-metal standard songs (like "Pull Me Under" and "Another day", the first 2 tracks) and have prog metal songs that develop the ideas left in "Light Fuse And Get Away" and in "Only A Matter Of Time": the focus on the chops and the complex time and melodic structures. So there you have songs like "Learning to Live", "Take The Time" and the classic of the band "Metropolis Pt. 1", that later would continue in Scenes From a Memory, the hailed CD from 1999. So until now 2 CD's represent 2 eras of the band, the "hairy" and the "choppy".
In 1994 their third work Awake, shows the 3rd era. Different from many others prog metal-rock bands of the 90's that just stayed in the chops and ultra-complex song structures, DT gave a step forward. Awake shows how the band have grown musically. First of all the songs have more expressive sense. Second the keys almost quit their lead importance to become an atmospheric and experimenting instrument and third the guitar also left a lot of their leading stuff to become much more rhythmic and atmospheric. The conclusion of this changes were: first the music became more atmospheric, shorter, heavier and darker, second the chops are almost left behind, and third the music is much more expressive and less "robotic". It is important also to have into account that the lyrics were improved and had most deep themes (like "Voices", "Scarred" or "Innocence Faded"). At the end of the recording session, [keyboardist] Kevin Moore left the band so started a new era, the more commercial one, that I won't mention.
After the critical failure of Falling Into Infinity (1997), their most commercial CD, the band released in 1999 their most acclaimed work Metropolis Part II, Scenes From a Memory. This is a concept CD based on a hypnosis and a murder in 1928 ... (I won't tell the story, you can get it explained in DT's official [web site]). Musically, this work shows another era from the band. With the new keyman Jordan Rudess, the band have a more symphonic sound. Rather that have one special quality (like its predecesors) this work have a lot of variety. [It has] the traditional challenging, choppy and complex songs, but with a lot of improvements ("Overture 1928", "The Dance Of Eternity"), also have a lot of ballads ("Through Her Eyes", "The Spirit Carries On"), have the symphonic parts in songs like "Finally Free" and have the experimental-symphonic-technical-metallic songs like "Home", "Strange Deja-Vu", "Fatal Tragedy" and "Beyond This Life". Because of all of that this is a very eclectic CD, with a lot of arragments that improve their previous styles and with new forms, like the ballads or the strange-for-being-DT "Strange Deja-Vu".
In 2002 they released Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence, but I won't talk about it.
The conclusion of all of this is: Dream Theater is a prog band. All the things I mentioned before shows that the band "progresses" (hairy, choppy, ambient-sympho, eclectic), have a lot of styles and visions of the music and have always making new things. For me that's the importance of a progressive rock band, not the characteristics and the style, so I hope that the people that still think DT is not progressive can open [their] ears and progress like the music does. -- Juan Borrero
Another new Dream Theater review, added 4/10/06:
I am a fan of Dream Theater and have been for a few years. I have all the albums ... with the exception of one. I don't have Train of Thought because I sold it. I sold it even though I am usually a completist when it comes to bands I like a lot. That is how disappointing I found this album. I couldn't bear to keep it and I will tell you why.
The defenses seem to begin with "well if you're looking for that same old prog sound this isn't for you." First of all, the idea of being a progressive rock band doesn't mean you have to necessarily sound the same and not evolve. That is a naive implication. Secondly, no, I'm looking for good music. I'm looking for a mature artistic statement by musicians I respect. This album is regressive and immature. I was already disappointed with a significant portion of Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence but this is ridiculous. It sounds like a group of metal head Dream Theater fans that went to the Musicians Institute. It sounds like five twenty year olds that recently discovered the realm of music not played by Clear Channel radio stations. It does not sound like five accomplished adults with a rich mold-breaking musical catalogue to their credit. In addition to the barrage of cheesy effects that most performers use to mask their musical shortcomings, this album brought with it song structures that are weak and choppy and annoying to listen to. Up until this point they had great song structures that were progressive and made sense but now it seems like a string of poor interpretations of progressive rock composition. I got tired of the non-sequitur changes and the lack of any true groove. It's one thing to have music that does not focus on rhythm because it's just not the intention and it's another for the music to say "Hey check out this rhythm!" and I don't even have the slightest of motivations to even move an involuntary muscle. One thing I've always loved about them was their ability to transition and change time signatures but there is a way to do that right which requires finesse and maturity. That is, for some reason, absent here. And where did Myung go? Did he take a vacation? Because I didn't hear any of that great bass work that so grandly complimented their previous material. Come to think of it I didn't here many harmonies and melodies at all. Nothing. I don't care how difficult you make it to execute it's just noise. Anyone can make noise and they do.
Between reviews I've read and people I have spoken with I have noticed that it has been common to justify the sound by simply saying it's of a different musical genre. Well, I'm sorry to break it to you but that is simply not enough. The principles of music do not change from one genre to another. What makes something good and relevant is consistent, regardless of simplicity and complexity. Train of Thought was an excruciating letdown that I hope Dream Theater doesn't deal me again. But I gotta tell you, because of the trend displayed by this and Six Degrees ..., I'm going to be far more cautious about my future purchases. -- Armel Patanian
|The following entries are old, from the original GEPR circa 1994:|
|The best heavy progressive band out now. Imagine Yes/Dregs style played faster. They have all the earmarks of a great band...the talent, the timechanges and the songwriting ability are superb.|
|Awake offers complex heavy rock where the technique of the musicians make it even more dramatic. The style is inspired by the usual pop rock but also by a more "metal" and more acrobatic style. Compositions are based on the energetic riffs of the electric guitar, bass and drums. The vocals are solid and the keyboards often take on a support role. A dynamic sounding production that can hit hard at times and aggressive performances that are quite spectacular. Deserves the attention of fans of the style but also a warning for the others. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|Straddles the line between progressive and metal. Considering song structures, ideas and energy, they are definitely progressive, but the playing style, look and feel of the music, as well as the vocals are more in the metal camp, occupying an area of music shared by Rush in their better years. The second album Images and Words is destined to be a classic of that subgenre, much as Moving Pictures is. Their first album Where Dream And Day Unite is even more headbanger, but still worthwhile if you can find it.|
|Images and Words, albeit very commercially-produced sounding and cliche at times, is an amazing album. I believe these guys went to Berkely music college and their compositional and instrumental virtuosity is incredible. Music is very upbeat (not depressing like Fates Warning or Marillion) and complex, they try a lot of different musical ideas. Metropolis is the highlight of the album and contains a middle instrumental section which is probably the best moment in heavy metal I've ever heard. Haven't heard When Dream and Day Unite.|
|Images and Words is the best thing to come out of 1992. They boldly carry mainstream progressive rock into the next phase of its evolution. Throw together bits of Yes, Rush, Queensryche and Metallica and you have it, sort of. Exquisite musicianship and great lyrics. Powerful stuff.|
|Images and Words is an interesting expedition into metal with an accent on musicianship. The vocals sound a little too much like your average metal vocals (high wailing), but they do have recognizable talent.|
|The debut release by this band has been sought after since the original US CD issue went out-of-print in short order. Musically, I would classify this as AOR with a progressive bent, along with bands such as Magellan and Echolyn.|
|A "progressive heavy metal" band from New York. Great for fans of Rush and Queensryche. 2 albums so far: When Dream and Day Unite and Images and Words, each with a different vocalist. Both are very good, but IaW has a few sappy ballads meant to get them more radio air-play.|
|Eh, I have Images and Words and I thought the first couple of tracks on this album sucked. The rest are ok with a couple in the middle standing out a bit more. I found this to be a few notches above pop-metal.|
|Like many others, I waited impatiently for three years to hear Images and Words. Unfortunately, it wasn't worth it. While Images and Words contains some impressive moments, it just doesn't stack up to my expectations. The Good News: New vocalist James Labrie is excellent. His range is good and his voice is pleasing to listen to. No match for mid-eighties Geoff Tate, but he's considerably better than 99% of the classic prog vocalists. Guitarist John Petrucci has gotten much better (he was pretty good to begin with). Not only is his style cleaner, but his writing has matured as well. He handles multiple time changes and long solos proficiently. Drummer Mike Portnoy puts in an excellent performance as well. He falls back on snare-bass rhythms too often but his fills and more complicated playing keeps my interest. The Bad News: The production isn't that good. The guitar is too loud and often drowns out the bass and keys. I would criticize bassist John Myung for following Petrucci but I can't hear the basslines clearly enough to be sure. Kevin Moore's keyboards are often faintly working in the background instead of challenging the guitar for dominance like they should be. Moore's style intrigues me. He's competent enough to deliver a blistering solo or fly through a dual lead with Petrucci, but his acoustic chording on the slower pieces is unimaginitive and bland. My overall impression is that Images and Words is good, but with a little effort it could have been much better. First of all, the ballads don't belong on the album. "Another Day" and "Surrounded" just don't fit in with the style of "Metropolis Part 1" and "Learning to Live." The latter songs contain the frequent time changes and technical proficiency I've come to expect from this band while "Another Day" seems all too much like a try for MTV airplay. Of the album's 60 minutes, I like about 40 of them (noncontiguously). While Labrie's vocals are well done, I find the instrumental parts of the songs far more interesting. It makes me think they might have done better to stay a four piece instrumental band like they were considering before they found Labrie. "Metropolis Part 1" and "Learning to Live" are my stand out favorites on this offering, but even they lack the technique to break away from mediocrity. Petrucci's dominating riffs drown out Moore and Myung. Between the three of them there is potential for some intertwined melody but the guitar/keyboard harmony solos only hint at this. All they need to do is change about every fourth note during these dual leads and they'd have a beautiful counterpoint. I can't recommend this to all progressive listeners. If you have a taste for metal, or if you're looking for something a little different than the Marillion/Genesis clone sound, go for it. Otherwise I'd say it's too straight forward to be worthwhile. When comparing them to other 90's progressive acts, they remind me of Djam Karet the most (not in style or sound though) because they have incredible potential but lukewarm delivery. Bands like Nuova Era, Episode, and Ozric Tentacles have an edge up on these guys and I feel that Dream Theater is never going to live up to their potential until they scrap the desire to be successful.|
|What all the other people have been saying, namely that this is probably the BEST heavy progressive/metal progressive band there is today. Their drummer is definitely Peart's equal, and the keyboardist, Kevin Moore, is one of the best I've heard. Their first album is fairly heavy, but good, and their latest (Images and Words) is incredible! The second half of IaW is the best part. Take bits of Metallica, Queensryche, Rush, and you kind of thave the picture. Incredibly done solos and instrumental parts. Buy this album: it'll help open the way for other progressive bands! Be forewarned: this is hard-rock/ heavy-metal with a LOT of progressive tendencies. However, it iswell worth listening to.|
|Dream Theater are a very talented band who "progressiveness" is, I think vastly overrated. These guys are technicians above all and the music, to me lacks in emotional quality, one of the earmarks of quality Prog. First and foremost, they are a metal band and the songs are a way to show off their chops. And they have no shortage of chops. There is no denying these guys can play. However, despite their use of shifting time signatures and many key changes, I just can't bring myself to call these guys progressive rock. To me it is more than just odd time sigs with many key changes. There is a spirit invoked as well and these guys just don't invoke it. Not for me, anyway. Just because they were influenced by some Prog bands (which is noticable in their music, I admit) I don't think it automatically makes them a Progressive band. I have their first two releases. The first, When Day and Dream Unite, is the better of the two and shows more of their Prog influences. Images and Words is more commercially produced and includes a couple of love ballads, one of which includes a syrupy sax solo by the King of Fuzak, Jay Beckenstein. If you like prog *and* metal, you'll go crazy over these guys. More traditional proggers are warned to stay away.|
|First album is fantastic. Almost a direct cross between Rush and Watchtower. I eagerly awaited Images and Words ... even managed to get a copy in the UK before the UK release. I was very disappointed. There are some really terrible MTV tracks and I threw my CD away in disgust (honestly). They have, if only partially for now, sold out big time. This is ironic given how the first album was dedicated to a warning about selling out!|
|Links||[See Liquid Tension Experiment | Morse, Neal | Planet X | Platypus | Rudess Morgenstein Project | Transatlantic]|
Imagine My Surprise (71)
|Early fusion ensemble, perhaps more notable more for who was in it rather than for the music itself. The line-up on the earlier album was Billy Cobham, drums; John Abercrombie, lead guitar; Michael Brecker, sax and flute; Randy Brecker, trumpet and flugelhorn; Jeff Kent, keyboards, guitar and vocals; Doug Lubahn, bass and vocals; Barry Rogers, trombone and tuba; and, Edward Vernon, lead vocals. Side one consists mainly of jazzish/rockish pop songs, okay if you like that sort of thing, but there's nothing memorable there except for Abercrombie's solo in "Devil Lady." If side one was aimed at AM radio, side two was intended for the FM dial. It consists of the three-part "Dreams Suite" and "New York." The music here is indeed a fusion of rock and jazz, energetic and imaginative, and it is well worth listening to if you should come across the album. After some personnel changes, they released a second album, Imagine My Surprise, which I heard once many years ago and found disappointing. It may be better than I remember, but even so I doubt that it's anywhere near as good as much what the various members have done since then. -- Don McClane|
|Links||[See Abercrombie, John | Cobham, Billy]|
On Flight to the Light (80)
[See Yatha Sidhra]
Nothing Changes (02)
Drop-O-Rama - (Top Row) Oliver Campana (vocals), Alain Joumel (guitar), Eric
(Bottom Row) - Antoine de Montremy (drums, keyboards), Raphaël Hautefort (guitar)
Drop-O-Rama was formed in 1999, and Nothing Changes is their debut album. This CD contains 15 tracks actually, though there are neither titles nor lyrics of the last two tracks on the album in the booklet.
For the first time in my life I hear a CD that sounds like it's a "2 in 1" edition (2 LPs on 1 CD). The contents of the first eight tracks that, taken together last 40 minutes, and those of all seven of the following tracks on this 73-minute CD are more than merely noticeable different among themselves. Most of all, this difference concerns the compositional aspects of both of the "halves" of the CD and, partly, stylistic ones. All eight of the first tracks here are, overall, of a unified stylistic concept, representing Classic Prog-Metal with elements of Symphonic Art-Rock, and each of them is not only a real killer (and by all means), but is also full of some wonderful magic. Six out of these eight tracks: "Random Shooting", "Sagrerament", "Nothing Changes", "I Believe In Pain", "Days of Victory", and "Lizard Dream" (1, 2, 3, 5, 6, & 7, the latter of which is the only instrumental here), are about the predominant stylistics of the album. "While Show Me the Way" and "You Won't Kill Me Twice" (4 & 8) are, in my honest opinion, just wonderful examples of how should sound a ballad being both very charming and intricate. Stylistically, both of them represent a blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal of a moderately dramatic character. My personal favorites here are the last four of them (5 to 8). Apart from the heavy riffs and solos of electric and bass guitars, etc, these feature not only the solos and passages of synthesizers and piano, but also those of a string ensemble.
As for the remaining seven tracks (9 to 15), I think it would be incorrect this time to assert that the band had just filled the rest of the CD with them. All of them, while not masterpieces, are not only excellent compositions on the whole, but are also almost as original and tasteful as all eight of the tracks that I depicted above. For the most part (tracks 9 to 13: i.e. all those that are mentioned in the CD booklet), the songs that are featured on the second half of the CD represent kind of the Neo counterparts of those on the first half of it. Though there is the only ballad-counterpart among the said five songs - "Lovers In the Distance" (13). Along with the sugary "Sugar Fifteen" (track 9), which sounds like a real Nu-Metal hit, these two, while being overall very good "radio-friendly" songs are the simplest compositions on the CD. Even though all three of the songs that are located among them: "Tequila Tears", "Angel & Devil", and "Go Dancer" (12 to 14), are way better than them, they're inferior to any of the tracks that are present on the first half of the CD, too.
And there are, however, two phantoms in the very end of the CD (14 & 15). Respectively, I called them "Nameless-1" & "Nameless-2". Although the contents of both of these tracks are completely out of the album's predominant stylistics, both of them are excellent. The first of these strangely hidden "bonuses", entirely consisting of "crossing" passages of a "usual" synthesizer and those of a string ensemble, is the Classical Music-like piece (instrumental piece, of course). The last track on the CD is a very beautiful ballad of a dramatic character sung by Oliver to the accompaniment of very classical-sounding passages of piano. In other words, this ballad is, overall, of the same "genre" origin as that of its predecessor. In my view, these noticeable compositions should've been placed somewhere in the middle of the CD's second half.
I feel I should make a declaration of love to the music of this French band. Since my first acquaintance with the creation of Dream Theater I for the first time hear such a high quality and very tasteful Prog-Metal, which, moreover, is both complex and just amazingly attractive. In fact, though, I recalled Dream Theater just because I had the same impressions when I've heard their Images & Words CD ten years ago, while the music of Drop-O-Rama is highly original and incomparable at all. Anyone in the band is an outstanding musician, though especially, I am impressed with the excellent English by the excellent vocalist Oliver Campana. So I am sure that Drop-O-Rama, who, by the way, are already well known in France for their remarkable live shows, are able to easily conquer the whole progressive world. Highly recommended! -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Drop-O-Rama's web site
Click here for Brennus Records, a subsidiary label of Musea Records
Toward The Sun (75)
Fluid Druid (76)
|Semi-progressives from England who remind me a bit of the band England although not that good.|
|Mid-70's british 4 piece that sounded a bit like a folky Yes (mostly for the very mid-period Yes-like vocal harmonies), not as sophisticated in structure and song development, but still very nice, with longish tracks and cool album covers.|
|I heard some of Toward The Sun. Pretty symphonic prog, lush with synths and Mellotrons and the like. Good trebly vocal harmonies. Made me think of Fruupp, but more keyboard orientated. Pleasant. -- Mike Ohman|
Magical Elements (78), Whale City (79)
Late 70's Jazz rock outfit led by keyboardist Chuck Lamb, they recorded a couple albums on the inner city label. Of Whale City, the sound is your standard 70's fusion with tight playing and inspired compositions. Tracks like "Hammerhead," "Wimpy Thing" and "Butch and Bruce Go Under The Sea" really shine bright.
Les Temps des Bombes (84)
French-Canadian guitarist/vocalist who, with guitarist Rene Lussier, co-led an influential Canadian progressive group called Conventum. Les Temps... is his first solo effort, and features all of Conventum, plus other musicians. It sounds a bit like a heavier version of Art Bears, or perhaps Henry Cow circa In Praise of Learning, only with male vocals sung in French. Pretty grating and noisy, but potentially very appealing to fans of the RIO sub-genre. Duschene later joined Lussier, and ex-Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler in the all-instrumental "Les Four Guitaristes de'l Apocalypso Bar". -- Dave Wayne
Eternal Call (00)
Guitar Ballads (02)
Eternal Call/Vechni Zov line-up - Sergey Dudin (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards,
programming) and Kourbahn Nabioullin - (vocals, bass)
This is about as unlikely an act as I can imagine. Sergey and Kourbahn are Russians who have moved to the United States, where they created an album all sung in Russian, in fact the CD insert has nothing but Cyrillic characters ... well, almost nothing but. There are two words clearly readable in Roman characters: PINK FLOYD. This should be a good hint to what their music sounds like.
Well, yes and no. The first time I listened to Eternal Call, I thought "Wow, these guys are really a Pink Floyd clone band, just sung in Russian". However, after a few more listenings, I have to say there are some other influences at work here as well. The spacey synthesizer parts sound a lot more like Klaus Schulze in the Timewind/Black Dance era than Rick Wright (of Pink Floyd). Very nice spacey, hallucinogenic swoops and warbles. But the guitar work, particularly the soloing, is very Dave Gilmour, and even the vocal harmonies sound like Floyd, melodically if not linguistically. I wish I could understand them, I'm sure they're talking about very weighty subject (dogs, sheep and pigs, perhaps?).
After the release of Eternal Call, Dudin appears to have abandoned Kourbahn and gone solo, though he still has some help on bass and drums from some friends. I've heard one of these releases, Guitar Ballads. A very bad name for a very nice album. "Ballads" calls up visions of sappy love songs, which is absolutely not what this CD is all about. With the exception of the last cut on the album which has vocals (in English with no accent at all ... I'm pretty sure this is not Dudin, but a guest vocalist), this is an instrumental album. The songs all sound like Rick Wright playing Wish You Were Here-era organ and synthesized strings with lofty, sustained guitar solos being played over the top of it. You might think this would sound very Floyd-like. It does sometimes, but the soloing here is a blend of Dave Gilmour and Andy Latimer; slow, languid and soulful, with hardly a single note that doesn't slide or stretch into its pitch rather than simply being played. There are also outbursts of Joe Satriani-like fast note runs, as if to prove he can do this too. The cuts walk the edges between Floydian prog, new age guitar work and even some latin guitar stylings. Overall, a very nice effort and quite hallucinogenic to listen to. Warning: you may find yourself playing air guitar to this music, so be careful while driving!
If you are a Pink Floyd fan, you should find a lot to like about both of these album, but particularly Eternal Call. Guitar Ballads is, perhaps, a little lighter-weight and more accessable, but still has some soul-stirring cuts on it nonetheless. They are available from Musea, and also directly from him, but you'd better be able to read cyrillic text ... his web site contains very little English. -- Fred Trafton
Eternal Call is the debut Segrey Dudin album, which at the same time, represents
somewhat of a joint effort of the Dudin family and their friends from the
Russian-language diaspora in the USA. While listening to Eternal Call, I hear
quite a simplified, yet, overall, good copy of Pink Floyd
(think of Obscured By Clouds, The Final Cut, and The Division Bell). Each
song on the album contains instrumental parts, most of which are interesting despite
the fact that they are clearly about the arrangements that are typical for
Pink Floyd. Here however, Gilmoresque guitar lines were
played much more tastefully than those on the album of [the band] Obscured By Clouds,
for instance. Are you a die-hard fan of Pink Floyd and also of anything that sounds
like them? Would you love a new Pink Floyd album which has a ... sound typical for Pink
Floyd, and songs with lyrics in Russian? If so, then you'll probably love Eternal
Call to death!
Stylistically, Mirage is still the only Sergey Dudin album, which is about a real Symphonic Art-Rock (with a few of the elements of Prog-Metal that, though, occur here only from time to time). Overall, this music is definitely of a Classic Progressive school, "Rescue Expedition" and "Childhood" (2 & 7) are the instrumental ballads featuring simple and beautiful arrangements consisting of varied, yet, always mellow interplay between the fluid solos of electric guitar, those of bass, and passages of synthesizer. The only serious drawback of any of the aforementioned compositions concerns the monotony of tempo set by a drum machine, which is especially evident in comparison with those tracks that were recorded with a real drummer. "Reunion" and "Friday" (4 & 6), while being still accessible rather than complex compositions, quite noticeably differ from the tracks that I've described above, as well as from each other, though. "Reunion" is about a very tasteful Classic Symphonic Art-Rock that, apart from the parts of electric instruments, features the excellent passages and solos of acoustic guitar, while "Friday" is the only "official" representative of Prog-Metal on this album. Classical guitar piece "Nylon Ditty" (8) immediately recall[s] "Mood For a Day" (Yes, Fragile) by Steve Howe and a few of the other great guitar instrumentals, although Sergey's piece is incomparable at all. [Two] of the remaining compositions (both performed without drums) are not only real pearls of progressive music, but also rare pearls that, moreover, are unique by all means. Wonderful interplay between passages of acoustic guitar and those of a string ensemble that flow to the accompaniment of gentle jingle of little bells on "Introduction" (1) are full of a light sorrow, which is very, very Russian. The amazingly fast and virtuosi passages of acoustic guitar and diverse interplay between them and mid-tempo solos of semi-acoustic guitar, sounding very much like Sitar, and those of bass, are presented on "Middle East" (5), which, as well as "Introduction", is just filled with magic. [This album] gets my highest recommendation.
To be honest, I was afraid that the new Sergey Dudin album [Guitar Ballads] is really about just Rock ballads. To my surprise however, it turned out that the content of this album is quite diverse, and even the most accessible pieces here represent Symphonic Art-Rock ballads of a dramatic character, and not those sugary, mellow, and monotonous ones that are traditionally regarded as Rock ballads. "Blue Diamond", "Deep", and "Tears" (8, 10, & 11), feature not only ballad-like musical textures, but also mid-tempo arrangements with quite diverse and, often, contrasting interplay between the fast and rather harsh solos of electric guitar, those of bass, and slow passages of synthesizer. The latter of them, though, was performed without the rhythm section. "Intro", "Cassiopea", and "Come Back" (1, 6, & 7) are very good instrumental pieces, at least. Although "Intro" is very short, the guitar passages that are present there (and there is nothing but the passages of acoustic guitar on it:-) are in the state of a constant development. "Cassiopea" represents the Classic Art-Rock piece of a traditionally European origin. But then "Come Back", which is overall of the same genre, features quite unusual rhythms and is marked with shades of Latin American music. "100% Nylon", "Nostalgia" and "Destiny" (5, 9, & 12), are excellent at every aspect and are, IMHO, the best compositions on this album. Of course, "100% Nylon" consists exclusively of passages of a classical guitar. While on "Nostalgia", there are diverse interplay between passages and solos of acoustic guitar and string-like passages of synthesizer (no parts of any other instruments here). Finally, "Destiny" is the only song on the album (lyrics are in English), which, moreover, is the only track here that is about a blend of Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. -- Vitaly Menshikov
Click here for Sergey Dudin's web site,
nearly all in Russian
Click here to order Dudin's CD's from Musea Records. (Go to "Mail Order Service" and search for "Dudin").
Duello Madre (73)
|When the band dissolved Dede Lo Previte (drums) went to play with Nova, Bob Callero (bass) to Il Volo. Sort of an English jazz sound. An instrumental album.|
|Links||[See Nova | Osage Tribe | Volo, Il]|
Boomerang (82), See (84), Mosaiques (89)
Dugrenot was the bassist with Zao. He's released two solo albums I know of, Mosaiques and Boomerang. Both feature excellent Jazz-rock in a style close to later Zao, sometimes a little quieter and reflective, yet energetic and brilliantly executed. Both albums feature David Rose on violin. In addition, Mosaiques features guest appearances by Pierre Moerlen, Fred Frith, David Cross and others. Both are excellent, start with both !
With song titles like "Water Light," "Pastel Space," and "Pegasus Dream," you might draw a few conclusions about Dugrenot's Mosaiques. It follows in the zeuhl realm of Zao (of which bassist Dugrenot was a member; you may also recognize his name from Cyrille Verdeaux's Clearlight) but is much more pastoral and dreamy with shimmering violins, floating flutes and spacey synthesizers. Quite a gorgeous work that will carry you gently along in celestial harmony. Boomerang is more in line with the fusion stylings of Zao's Kawana but not quite as driving and still with several hints of the pastoral nature of Mosaiques. But Boomerang as a whole is a more energetic work than Mosaique. This is good because neither album is redundant so you'll want to get both. Both of these albums are a violin lover's dream as they both feature some beautiful violin work. These two albums are very worthy of your collection if you can find them. I've seen them offered no where but Wayside and then only as limited quantity. Search them out--it'll be worth your while. There is also a cassette put out by Eurock called See.
See is a compilation of leftover work and was cassette only.
[See Clearlight | Delired Cameleon Family | Zao]
Their album Nova is synth based contemporary cosmic music (ie. New Age) but it can't simply be dismissed as such, it is definitely a cut above most of the others in the genre, there are some very powerful and interesting moments. On a couple tracks operatic female voice is used to expand the basic sound. I'm sure those into this type of music would enjoy it more than I.
Of interest: Faces in Reflection (74), George Duke & Feel (74), The Aura Will Prevail (75), I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry (75), Liberated Fantasies (76), The Dream (aka The Solo Keyboard Album) (7?), From Me to You (77), Reach For It (78)
Those of you who know of George Duke's music from the late '70s on will probably think of him as a funk/disco keyboardist and vocalist. However, Duke is classically-trained, has composed operas and symphonic music, and spent quite a bit of time playing keyboards and singing in Frank Zappa's band in the early '70s. Duke's solo records on the MPS label contain some scintillating progressive fusion sounds. Duke's first record, Faces in Reflection, is a very jazzy keyboards + bass + drums trio with only one vocal track. Although primarily a jazz player, there is a strong gospel/funk undercurrent to his playing, and he is not afraid to take chances during his solos. George Duke & Feel continues in much the same vein, and features Zappa (under the pseudonym Obdewl'l X) on guitar on two tracks. Some distinctly progressive rock elements are also introduced here, particularly in the two cuts Zappa solos on, and in a brief all- keyboard piece, "Theme From the Opera Tzina". The Aura Will Prevail contains two Duke/Zappa compositions ("Echidna's Arf" and "Uncle Remus") and lots of spirited jazz-fusion. Vocals are more prominent on Aura..., but it is still a great album. About half the tunes on Duke's first decidedly commercial record, I Love the Blues... are in a creative rock-funk vein, and the rest is more adventurous Zappa-esque fusion. Unlike the preceding records which were basically keyboards + bass + drums, I Love the Blues... features a large supporting cast, including guitarists Lee Ritenour, George Johnson, Daryl (Genesis) Stuermer, and Johnny Guitar Watson, bassists Byron Miller and Tom Fowler, violinist John Wittenburg, trombonist Bruce Fowler, percussionist Emil Richards, and others. Any of you who doubt Duke's fusion and prog credibility should find this album and listen to "Giantchild Within Us - Ego"!! I Love the Blues... was followed by a very similar (and very good) album called Liberated Fantasies. After Duke left MPS for CBS in the late '70s, MPS released The Dream, a decidedly non-commercial solo record featuring some nice jazzy solo acoustic piano as well as multiple layers of electronic keyboards, and even some decent drumming mixed with some charming now-antique electronic percussion. The Dream was released in Europe only, but was reissued in the US a few years later with a very ugly cover as The Solo Keyboard Album. Duke's recordings for CBS were largely very commercial, but the first three contain at least one excellent balls-to-the- wall progressive fusion tune (e.g., "Up On It" on From Me To You). If you enjoy the upbeat melodic jazz-fusion music of groups like Return to Forever, you should check out George Duke's solo albums on MPS (...which I actually prefer to anything Return to Forever ever recorded, except "Hymn to the Seventh Galazy"). His most recent (mid-to-late '90s) recordings are very diverse and include at least one full length symphonic work for keyboards, bass, drums and orchestra. -- Dave Wayne
[See Zappa, Frank]
And I Turned As I Had Turned As a Boy (71)
A Land Fit for Heroes (80)
Room for Thought (92, Recorded in 1971)
When a Child ... (93)
Rob's Garden (95)
Into the Light (97)
|Links||Click here or here for more info|
Electric Indian (71)
This Side of Toilet Rug (86, EP)
Your Aunt In Her Cupboard (89)
They Saved Hitlers Brain (90)
Dulls Dullest Vol.1 (91, Cassette, Video?)
Neem Die Pijp Uit Je Muil, Jij Hond (92)
Dikke Mannen (93)
Dulls Dullest Vol. 2 (95)
|Very weird band from the Netherlands. The band basically is a six piece (drums, guitar, bass, guitar, trumpet, keyboard/piano/sax) but is joined by several players (mostly horn or woodwind) on their recordings. Their music is basically RIO but they don't take it as serious as their British ancestors. So you find here crazy experimental rock, with a dominant trumpet, sometimes very heavy (a bit of Doctor Nerve here and there) sometimes with more quiet jazz rock passages. Their first has a very punk-like feeling and is (was) only available on LP. Of their CDs I would recommend Neem Die Pijp, which everybody who takes progressive rock not too serious and likes RIO stuff will certainly enjoy. -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||Click here for Dull Schicksal info in Dutch on the "Pop Institute" site|
|Some of the best French progressive rock groups only lasted an album especially in the early eighties, and although the plans for this reissue will be at least a year and a half old by the time Musea finally get to release this, it will be certainly worth the wait. This is dazzlingly complex music with flutes and tuned percussion in the style of bands like Maneige and Carpe Diem. A jazzy base is the background for many escapades in a pleasantly dissonant and chromatic style. The dynamics are incredible, contrasting intensely dark rhythmic parts with atmospheric and dreamy percussion sequences. The Dün is pronounced "Dune" obviously betraying another album with Frank Herbert references with the track "Arrakis." Superb and essential.|
My cravings for Dün's Eros were reasonable, 'cause this is a truly
stupendous release from prog-rock kingdom. Take the best of French prog
Mahavishnu Orchestra, some
Magmatisms, Henry Cow,
smaller portions of Etron Fou Leloublan
and even Univers Zero, stir well, be
careful with production and you could get Eros, a brilliant blend of
all mentioned components, which sounds mostly like Dün.
Concering the RIO similarities, Dün often opened for
EFL, when those
two played gigs in their area, so it is not surprising they made close ties
with those groups. Guys from UZ
suggested Dün members to record in Etienne Conod's Sunrise studio in
Switzerland, where Eros was recorded later. Dün
could become members of a RIO movement, but liner notes say the band was too
lazy to grab this honour.
However, Eros is comprised of 4 rather long tracks: "L'Epice" (9:25), "Arrakis" (9:36), "Bitonio" (7:09) and "Eros" (10:17). As you may see, titles were inspired by well-known Herbert's novel, as was the name of the band in the earlier stages of development, namely Dune. I hardly more than started to listen, I found myself in the centre of fun. On the album line-up consisted of guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, flute and tuned percussion. Within most of the tracks mentioned instruments are exchanging themselves in lead, but mostly and most importantly there are flute, played by excellent Pascal Vandenbulcke and vibraphone, played by equally excellent AlainTermol, which nest atop other instruments. Both musicians are often paired together. Termol has a breathtaking solos on "Arrakis", (as well as Vandenbulcke) which is the most brilliantly convoluted track on Eros, although competition is hella harsh. Tempo on all tracks is very high, much of heard is played very fast. When so called intermittent parts take place and calm down the accelerating pace, I'm reminded mostly of Henry Cow, and this is another proof of tortuousity in Dün's music, which was also compared to Potemkine.
Eros' rerelease (2000) has 4 bonus tracks. Three of them are earlier versions of tunes from Eros, recorded in 1978 and 1979. At those times, there was/were sax(es) in the line-up, played by Phillipe Portejoie. It is evident that "Bitonio" shrank prior appearance on the album or even earlier, and that "Arrakis" and "Eros" swelled in the same period. The closing number on CD is "Acoustic Fremen" whose title says everything. That track clearly shows, who were the bands' greatest inspiration. If you'd like to know who, make an anagram from the following two words: yohn crew.
I spent many words for review above, but I could spend only three: Eros is swell. CD-rerelease was limited to 999 copies. If you'll see it (anywhere), don't even think! Grab it!!! -- Nenad Kobal
|Dunaj was a very unique band coming from the Czech Republic. The quintet (bass/guitar/bass drum, guitar/flute, guitar, keyboards/piano, drums) developed extremely driving rhythms with a very strong and dominant bass. The music is sometimes very aggressive, sometimes very complex (three guitars), has some minimalist moments here and there, has also some beautiful melodies and features Jiri Kolsovskys dark and mysterious vocals (sung mostly in Czech). Any comparison is nearly impossible but I would dare to say that they remind a bit of middle period Crimson (Starless and Bible Black, Red) or Present (especially the new live-stuff). Their recordings are equally strong, Dudlay being a bit heavier. There must exists a 5th CD, most possibly recorded between Rosol and Dudlay, but I never could track it down. Pustit also features Iva Bitova on vocals and Pavel Fajt. -- Achim Breiling|
Sul Monte e' il Tuono (93)
Il Chiarore Sorge Due Volte (95)
Eternal Eclipse of Frost (99)
|An Italian trio (Katya Sanna: Vocal Melodies; Claudio Nigris: Keyboards; Alessandro Vitanza: Drums), helped by a lot of session men. The music is a mix on New Age, Folk and Prog and their lyrics (in Italian) are based on myths and legends of the entire world. -- Riccardo Deidda|
Sul Mote e' il Tuono is the first album by the Italian band Dunwich. Their
songs seem to fall into two categories: on one hand there are the
atmospheric, folk-influenced ambient pieces dominated by lush keyboards and
drawn-out female vocals and reminding of Dead Can Dance; on the other hand,
some songs feature heavy drumming and guitar riffs overlayed with gloomy
symphonic sounds, a bit like Devil Doll but less classically-influenced and
gothic. The combination sounds gloomy, mysterious and quite original, with
a varied use of instrumental sounds and strong melodies. The album’s ten
shortish songs run together to form one long suite, but while the first
half is really strong, some dead spots begin to appear towards the end. The
female vocalist has many powerful moments, and adjusts well to both the
vaporous and booming moments, but she sometimes seems to have trouble
sustaining the right pitch. The murky mix doesn’t help things either.
Still, a very interesting and promising debut that successfully mixes
symphonic, gothic and folk elements.
In contrast, Eternal Eclipse of Frost sports a much stronger sound with considerable string and choral overdubs. However, the heavy guitars and drums become rather overbearing on several tracks, diminishing the music's range and, together with the booming choir work, giving the music a cold sheen more typical of Gothic metal. Still the calmer and folk-tinged moments with celtic harps, acoustic guitars and the more lyrical contributions from the female vocalist shine with frosty beauty. Gothic rockers will probably like this a lot, but I am disappointed by the loss of musical diversity since the first album, which negates some of the definite improvements on writing, production and performance departments. -- Kai Karmanheimo
La Düsseldorf (76), Viva (78), Individuellos (81)
Composed of ex-NEU! guitarist/bassist/singer/drummer Klaus Dinger, his brother Thomas on drums and vocals, and Konrad Plank associate Hans Lampe on percussion and electronics. The music carries on in the style of NEU! 75, but with a more pronounced new-wave feel, so probably not as interesting to prog-heads. Each of the first two albums has a nice instrumental ("Silver Cloud" on the first, "Rheinita" in Viva), but overall not as imaginative as its predecessor, and somewhat repetitious. Especially on the long tracks, the 20-minute "Cha Cha 2000" (on Viva) can be positively excruciating. As I haven't been too impressed by either of these, I haven't bothered getting Individuellos. -- Mike Ohman
[See Kraftwerk | Neu!]
The Green Book (99, recorded 1996)
The Green Book was really the first (recorded) album of the new wave of prog bands that
emerged in Chile since 1996, predating even Tryo's debut. For reasons
unknown to me, this was only released in 1999. Featuring lyrics and song titles in English
(neither a plus nor a minus to me), this is a fine example of melodic neo prog. Fans of
Camel or Jadis
(Leviathan comes to mind, too) should be pleased to no end, even
more, by the fact that Hasard's voice reminds Gary Chandler. What I like about this, is that the
"progressiveness" comes rather from a composition of musical ideas (indeed, a lot of them) rather
than just from juxtaposition. Some people like Wind and Wuthering more than Foxtrot
exactly for this reason, while I prefer Foxtrot I can understand the rationale behind this.
Remarkable songwriting skills these guys have, and they know how to start with a song
(verse-chorus-...) and turn it into a real suite. The idea behind this is "the group should
sound richer and different than five virtuosos jamming", which is something they definitely
achieve. Me, not being a native English speaker, I do not know if the vocalist's pronunciation is
superb, just good, mediocre, or what. Awful certainly it's not. Lyrics have some kind of
naïve charm, and a storytelling style ("Doktors" experimenting, remember "Entangled" in
A Trick of the Tail?, beings made of "Sponge" - "Squonk" reminiscences?, "Bad News From
the Northern Gate", a brief mixture of King Canute - "Can-Utility" - and the gang fights in "The
Battle of Epping Forest"), in the best early-Genesis tradition.
Bottom line: If progressive means to you "angular", "hard to get into" or "if my girlfriend doesn´t complain immediately then it's not prog" (i.e: "progressive" as an adjective to the noun "rock"), pass this. If you think that harmony and melody still have a role in prog (i.e: "progressive rock" as a compound noun), go get it.
Trivia: What is a sandynette (the vocalist also plays guitar and "sandynette")? Just a DIY sax-like instrument, with a pipe section as body. What does it sound like? Well, in sounding, colour and range it´s essentially a tenor sax. -- Rodrigo Farías M.
Different Values (94)
Beyond the Gates (96)
|A Wavestar alumnus, his Evolution is a release of fine electronics that should certainly bring to mind the Berlin sound, with the touch of Floydian spaciness that was the trademark of Wavestar. The sound is a bit more "digital," and the compositions more complex, but the overall effect is undeniably positive. This should certainly appeal to those who enjoy the music of Tangerine Dream, and, of course, Wavestar. Aquarelle is the second solo release and carries on in the style of his previous efforts, with electronic music that strongly echoes Tangerine Dream of the early eighties. The tracks on this CD have a more symphonic content, achieved with a MIDI-fied keyboard stack. In the quieter moments, the melodies are delicate and flow over distant chords, placing this CD quite well in a Tangerine-Dream - meets - Kitaro kinda slot. However, the pace and mood vary quite a bit over the length of this release, lending credence to Dyson's skills as a composer, and further establishing him as a principal player in the UK electronics scene.|
Click here for the Wavestar/John Dyson web page
Dzyan (72), Time Machine (73), Electric Silence (75)
First LP, very hard to find, is right in the German Kraut-Rock vein (I only listened to that one once and don't really remember it, but it was nothing special). After that the band broke up and was refounded as a trio (Eddy Marron on guitar, Reinhard Krawatky on bass and Peter Giger on drums). This trio recorded the two excellent albums Time Machine and Electric Silence. Here you find great fusion/jazzrock with strong and fast guitars (guitarist Eddy Marrons style could be compared to J. McLaughlin in the Mahavishnu Orchestra era). There are also slower pieces, with a more Asiatic touch (some sitar here and there) and a lot of electronic effects (also on the drums). Best comparison would be Return to Forever or Mahavishnu Orchestra. Highly Recommended! -- Achim Breiling
I have heard Electric Silence. Pleasing East Indian-inflected space progressive. Guitars, synths and Mellotron mix with sitars, sarods and tambouri. The amazing thing is that this stuff never sounds self-indulgent or excessive. Much of the guitar playing is not unlike John McLaughlin in his Shakti period, but electric. Fans of Embryo, Amon Düül II and the like should investigate. -- Mike Ohman
Extraordinary and nearly unclassifiable German space jazz trio whose two albums from the early '70s are certainly on par with, if not superior to, anything recorded by other "kraut-rockers" such as Amon Duul II, Guru Guru, and Kraan. Both records feature guitarist Eddy Marron, bassist/keyboardist Reinhard Karawatky and percussionist Peter Giger, and cut an insanely wide stylistic swath from contemplative and spacey free improvisations, to high-energy Mahavishnu Orchestra-like fusion workouts. There is also a "world music" element to Dyzan's art. Besides electric and acoustic guitars, Marron also plays several ethnic stringed instruments (i.e., sitar, zaz, etc.), and at times there is a distinct gypsy/flamenco feel to his playing. Peter Giger's percussion arsenal includes a vast array of gongs, hand drums, and other toys. Of Dzyan's two records, Time Machine is more compositionally focused and the music has a strong jazz-fusion component. Comparisons to the first two Mahavishnu Orchestra albums would not be too far off base, although Dzyan are certainly not clones and maintain their unique identity throughout. Electric Silence de-emphasizes the hard-edged fusion and jazz sounds in favor of a looser, more freely-improvised jamming feel. Marron plays more acoustic guitar, sitar and zaz, and Giger's percussion emphasizes color and shading, rather than playing a pure timekeeping role. The result: acid-drenched hippie psychedelic nirvana! Both records are classics and pretty hard to obtain. I don't think Dzyan released any albums after Electric Silence. Peter Giger later turned up on Eberhard Weber's first solo album for ECM, The Colors of Chloe. -- Dave Wayne