Black Noise (77)
Headroom (78, aka FM)
City Of Fear (80)
Tonight This Time (87)
|Canadian trio who made a very accessible progressive rock, very influenced by Yes and Genesis, and much science fiction lyric is involved.|
|Canadian Trio featuring Cameron Hawkins (Synthesizer, Bass, Bass-Pedals, Vocal), Martin Deller (Drums,Percussion), Ben Mink (Violin and Mandolin on 1st, 3rd and 4th albums, Guitar on 5th) and Nash The Slash (Violin, Mandolin and Vocals on 2nd and 5th albums). Their sound was pretty unique as the Mandolin subs for guitar throughout; The earliest albums tend to be more jazz-fusion influenced, the first Headroom, consisting of two sidelong instrumental pieces recorded direct-to-disc. With the second album Black Noise, there is less reliance on improvisation as they became more Yes influenced, with multi-part complimentary vocal arrangements, and science fiction based lyrics. Surveillance carried on in much the same mode, but by this point any remaining jazz influences had all but disappeared. City Of Fear was their first dog, where about half the tunes appear to be attempts to make a hit single; the remaining (good) tracks were leftovers from the soundtrack to the movie "The Incubus." They regrouped in the mid-80's as a four piece for Con-Test, this time the entire project seemed to be aimed at the pop single market, which they finally got with the minor hit "Why Don't You Take It," which resounded with it's Phil Collins-isms. Most of the album's tracks sound more like The Cars circa Candy-O than like anything FM had done before. By 1987 both Deller and Mink had bailed, leaving Hawkins and Slash to try to do it again with two newbies. The result was Tonight a totally mainstream album without even the slightest hint of their better days. Any of the first three are a good place to start.|
|Interesting Canadian band. The direct-to-disc first album consists of two 16-minute-or-so pieces of exploratory improvisation using bass guitar and pedals, electric violins and mandolin, and tons of synthesizers. Vocals are buried deep in the mix, almost impossible to hear even if you try. Still, completely intruguing. Black Noise is probably their best album, more song orientated with now prominent vocals. The use of electric mandolin gives it the necessary originality, I certainly don't know of any other band that's used it to this extent before. Something like a high-tech, spacy mix of Rush and U.K., for want of a better comparison. Black Noise is definitely the one to begin with, if only for the magnificent 10-minute title track. Surveillance is the beginning of a downward-spiral for the band, the degeneration is already beginning to set in, as evidenced by the banal cover of the Yardbirds' "Shapes Of Things." Still, songs such as "Orion" and "Sofa Back" make this one decent enough to be enjoyable. -- Mike Ohman|
|Canadian band with some interesting albums at the end of the seventies. Black Noise is very good, clean production, listen with a headphone! Surveillance is also worthwhile but no songs catch my attention. City of Fear is a question of taste, the songs are certainly more commercial with simpler structures (check the chorus). Nevertheless I like it, the vocals are good and the playing is as with all albums superb (the electric mandoline is still very much evident). I've also got one their eighties albums on tape, avoid it all costs. It's amazing how bands can change their sound! -- Eric Hermans|
Black Noise (1977): A three-piece band set in Toronto, the first lineup
consists of Cameron Hawkins (keys, bass, vocals), Martin Deller (drums, synth),
and Nash The Slash (violin/mandolin, vocals). Note the absence of guitar, but
you couldn't tell that from Nash The Slash's electric violin, which sounds like
a guitar at times. This is their true first album; synthesizer-driven
progressive music that rocks out at times. One can notice a definite
Yes influence, as well as then-contemporaries
Rush (particularly in the keyboard parts). There is
some pop edge to the vocal pieces (well, it IS 1977, when most progressive
bands were trading in quality for commercialism), and most songs have a basic
structure to them. However, this doesn't detract from the music, as the
musicianship is high and the melodies are quite memorable. Overall, this is a
quality album and is the one to start with if you're curious about this band.
Headroom (Direct To Disc) (1978): By this point, Nash The Slash left for a solo career, and was replaced by Ben Mink on electric violin and mandolin. This is an unusual recording in that it consists of two side-long pieces that were recorded directly to vinyl without a master acetate. As a result, the pieces were done in one take with no overdubs! Each piece has many parts to it, and explore quite a few variations in style. The intro in very Yes-like, with each musician trading off high-speed licks with each other (complete with Chris Squire bass runs!). In contrast, here are other sections that are completely improvised, and convey a spacey feel to the music. Good stuff. Each part is described by the band on the album notes, but you can't help but laugh at some of the lines: "The piece concludes with added synthesizer environments of modulated noise and alpha brain wave control of an ARP2500"! Still, this is quite a good album, if you can find it. Only 200 or so copies were made, so it could be quite pricey.
Surveillance (1979): Now the band starts to hit-and-miss. It seems they decided to start streamlining their sound and catering to the pop market, at the expense of their progressive edge. However, there are still some great moments on the album, particularly the songs "Orion" and "Sofa Back" (not surprisingly, these are the two instrumentals on the album!). Again, I get reminded of Rush around this period (the intro to the song "Horizons" sounds exactly like something out of the Rush song "Xanadu", complete with synthesizer and glockenspiel!). The album isn't terrible, it's just not up to the quality of their previous efforts.
City of Fear (1980): The band appeared to be shooting for singles on this album, but the music doesn't have much lasting value on the listener. If you listen closely, there are still some decent songs, but they seem more New Wave than Progressive, if I had to label them. Look for this only if you are a big fan of the band. -- Simon Karatsoreas
|Links||[See Mink, Ben | Nash the Slash]|
In And Out Of Focus (70)
Moving Waves (71)
Focus 3 (72)
Live At The Rainbow (73, Live)
Hamburger Concerto (74)
Ship Of Memories (74)
Mother Focus (75)
Dutch Masters (75, Compilation)
Focus Con Proby (78)
Dutch Masters (compilation) (75)
Focus 8 (02)
Focus about 1973 - Bert Ruiter, Thijs Van Leer, Jan Akkerman and Pierre Van Der Linden
Because they have a flautist they can sound like Jethro Tull at times, Most of their music is instrumental. Some of the songs they sing on are in English, and those songs tend to be their worst. The ones they sing in other languages are better. Best albums are Hamburger Concerto, Moving Waves, 3, and Live at the Rainbow.
|Focus was the four piece from Holland that can be credited with being one of the first bands to bring instrumental progressive rock to the AM airwaves with their 1971 hit "Hocus Pocus" (featured on Ship of Memories). Their high- powered sound was propelled by virtuoso guitarist Jan Akkerman, and Flautist/ Keyboardist/Vocalist extraordinaire Thijs Van Leer. The other mainstay of the band was drummer Pierre Van Der Linden. Bassists came and went with nearly every new album. Their music was heavily classical and jazz influenced, with an equal proportion of hard driving instrumental flash-rock featuring vocals as an instrument, not as a conduit for lyrics. Waves and 3 represent the best of the band's earlier intensely progressive period with plenty of sidelong tracks and healthy extended solos. Most will agree that Live at the Rainbow and Hamburger Concerto were their best, moving into a period of more pure classical and jazz influence. With Mother Focus, the band took a more or less commercial turn, with shorter cuts and snappier tunes. Ship of Memories is an album of odds and ends recorded in the Rainbow/Hamburger period that had been previously unreleased, and also includes the radio version of their mega-hit "Hocus Pocus." All great stuff not to be missed.|
|Pretty good jazz-rock band. Focus 3 (1972) is a double LP that takes the obligatory side-long song -- a rather aimless instrumental jam in this case -- an extra step by fading out after nearly 20 minutes, and then putting another seven minutes onto the next side! In fact, all but one song on the whole set is instrumental... and that one song ("Round Goes the Gossip") has lyrics in Latin, from Virgil's "The Aeneid". What pretension... what pomp... what snobbery... but worth hearing. (This refers to the whole album -- the singing on the song in question is mediocre.) Live at the Rainbow (1973) -- recorded, you guessed it, live at the Rainbow Theatre in London -- consists of (I think) tracks from their first three albums. More jazzy instrumental noodling, along with crowd noise and the semi-legendary (and very fun) "Hocus Pocus" -- which you have quite likely heard on the radio at some time in your life. -- Greg Ward|
|Seminal Dutch progressive. They had a hit in the US with "Hocus Pocus" which was known for the yodeling, more than anything else. Unfortunately, that became the "signature song" for the band and is not at all representative of what their music is about. They mix jazz and classical ideals into extended, very melodic rock suites. Flute, guitar, and organ dominate the sound. Their first, In and Out of Focus contains mostly shorter songs, is a little uneven and reveals the band in development. You can hear some of Jan Akkerman's classic guitar licks and Thijs Van Leer's signature flute straining out through the music Some of the music has a beat/psych feel but "Anonymous" and "Focus (Instrumental)" hint at great things to come. Beginning with Moving Waves the band found their groove and turned out several excellent albums. My favorite is 3, but any of them, up to and including Hamburger Concerto are excellent. Highly recommended!|
|Early, highly influential Dutch progressive, featuring the flute, keyboards and vocals of Thijs Van Leer and the undisputed talents of ex-Brainbox guitarist Jan Akkerman. I haven't heard the first album yet, it's supposed to be pretty proto-prog. Moving Waves is probably the one you'll want to begin with, anyway. Notorious for the six-minute novelty hit "Hocus Pocus," a rocker with Black Sabbath-like guitar riffing including wild yodelling, goofy cartoon voices and solos for flute and accordion! Whether they wanted it to or not, it became their signature song. But the real reason to own this is the 21-minute "Eruption," in which the various sections highlight Van Leer's flute playing, churchy organ and pillowy Mellotron as well as Akkerman's top-notch guitar playing. Focus III is a somewhat overextended double LP, with tracks like "Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers!" and the 27-minute (!) "Anonymus II" going off on jazzy tangents, and for the most part going on longer than they should. But these tracks do have their moments, and the shorter songs, notably "Carnival Fugue" and "Round Goes The Gossip" (the latter graced with Latin lyrics!), are excellent works with rock, classical and jazz elements. The beautifully melodic "Sylvia" was a major instrumental hit in Europe. An attempt to write a side-long piece entitled "Out Of Vesuvius", intended to rival "Eruption," resulted in the title-suite of Hamburger Concerto, which does indeed blow "Eruption" away in every which way, no mean feat if you've heard it! ("Eruption" I mean.) Van Leer pulls out all the stops--literally with synthesizer and even pipe organ! Meanwhile, Akkerman's guitar is as good as ever. Also noteworthy is the classic "Birth," spotlighting Van Leer's flute, and the hard-rocker "Harem Scarem." Perhaps their best album ever. Ship Of Memories is an album of odds and ends, mostly recorded in between Focus III and Hamburger Concerto, some of which eventually ended up on Hamburger Concerto (like the aforementioned "Out Of Vesuvius," which appears as an incomplete five minute track here) and Mother Focus. -- Mike Ohman|
|Stylistically, the music that is presented on the new Focus album, Focus 8, brings to the listener not only the familiar, distinctively original, and immediately recognizable spirit of this Legend, but also a decent dose of something new, which wasn't typical for a "classic" Focus. Above all, this concerns the sound of today's Focus, which, overall, is heavier than ever before, even though there is only one track on the album, the stylistics of which represents a real fusion of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Prog-Metal. This is the album's opener, "Rock & Rio", which, at the same time, is much in the vein of "Hocus Pocus" from Moving Waves and, of course, includes inimitable joking vocalizes by maestro Van Leer and highly virtuosi (just brilliant!) arrangements that, moreover, are full of magic. Honest! By the way, all the eleven tracks on the new Focus album are, IMHO, either excellent compositions or masterpieces. No merely good tracks here, not to mention mediocre ones! While created in Focus's best traditions, most of the compositions on the album are, however, richer in the elements of Prog-Metal than in those of Jazz-Fusion. (Whereas before, the elements of Jazz-Fusion were much more typical for Focus than those of Prog-Metal.) In short, Focus 8 sounds by no means like being the mould of Focus's classic style, but is a really fresh album by the band that is still capable to amaze. -- Vitaly Menshikov|
Focus 8 has been said to be a "Focus reunion" album, but this is really not
right. What really happened is that a band named Hocus Pocus had formed as a Focus
tribute album, but when Focus flautist/organist Thijs van Leer heard them, he decided
to join up himself. So the only member of this band from any of the old Focus line-ups
is Thijs. So it's not really a "reunion" of any sort. Who cares? The music is what's
important here, and the question to ask is: "Is this a good Focus album or not?"
My answer would be, "Yes, it is". Well, with some slight reservations. Focus 8 reminds me quite a bit of the new Greenslade material. It is about as much like the original music as that is, yet also has some elements of "adult pop" in the sound. In other words, it's easier on the ears, smoother and more "grown-up" than the older material. Some may hear this as a "dumbing down" of the music, but I don't think so. It's not as wild and crazy as the original stuff, but as far as musicianship and composition goes, it's far more mature. It is a little more thoughtful and less adrenaline-laced. Mr. van Leer is getting too old to play while standing on one leg any more ... oh, sorry, that's that other prog flautist!
This album contains everything you might want from a Focus album ... plenty of flute and keyboards from Thijs, tasty guitar playing from Jan (that's Dumeé, not Akkerman, and he's just as good or better!) and even some yodeling vocals. This isn't just a new band with an old name, this music is unmistakably Focus in its sound. As for Vitaly's "prog-metal elements" comment (previous review), I can only say ... "Huh? Did we listen to the same album?" Dumeé's guitar has plenty of crunch in some parts, but I think that calling it "prog-metal" is a bit much. It's certainly no more "prog-metal" than Focus ever was. But each listener will hear his own things, I suppose ... don't be expecting any Dream Theater licks here or anything, though.
In summary, a highly recommendable album to the old fans of Focus, and maybe some new fans as well. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Akkerman, Jan | Brainbox | Sweet'd Buster | Trace]|
Wanderers Of The Neverending Night (92)
Soul Travels (93)
In Flux (94)
Earth Shaper (96)
Perfect Cosmological Principle (97)
Upper Level Open Space (99)
Sunset Cliffs (00)
Project Moonbeam (08, CDR, not strictly a Fonya album, see below)
|A very fluid, mostly instrumental rock project that drips of psychedelics, comparable to something like Erpland without the reggae influences. Ripping lead guitars and throbbing rhythms paint a modern space-rock that burns in overall intensity. I'm sure any fans of Ozrics would go berserk over this (I did!). A long disc to boot, almost seventy minutes.|
Fonya-- there is a macron (horizontal bar) over the "o" and "a" so the name
should be pronounced phone-yay -- is the solo vehicle for
multi-instrumentalist Chris Fournier. In this day of countless
neo-progressive bands, Fonya instead
draws from the likes of Eloy,
Tangerine Dream and
Camel to create a very spacious (and spacey) melodic
progressive rock. Functioning essentially as a trio, Fournier combines
either bass (his primary instrument) or guitar with drum machine and
sequenced keyboards. To date, Fonya has released two compact discs,
Wanderers of the Never Ending Night and Soul Travels. A
third, In Flux, is in the works.
Wanderers of the Neverending Night was Fonya's 67 minute debut release from 1992 on Larry Kolota's Kinesis (then Kinetic Discs) label (KDCD 1004). As you might guess, this fine debut is a conceptual work based on the planets of our solar system, plus the sun around which they revolve. There is an additional song called "Sea o' Dreams" which I can only guess might be inspired by our moon's Lunar Mares. For the most part, the arrangement of songs reflects the order of the planets from nearest to the Sun out to Pluto though Neptune manages to slip into the third orbit while centrifugal forces threw Mercury out to the sixth orbit. The planets are followed by "Elder Sun, Bringer of Light" then the above mentioned "Sea o' Dreams." Right! So what about the music? Unlike Holst's orchestral suite, "The Planets," Fonya music creates a vision of celestial grandeur that has forever drawn man's fascination to the sky. Holst focused on the astrologial and mythological significance of the planets. Fonya instead conjures up the majesty of the planets themselves. The first thing that I noticed was the keyboard sounds. Chris uses a wide variety of sounds ranging from chimes to shimmering "space dust" sounds (hell, I don't know how to describe 'em) to the rumbling floor shakers. Integrated with these are the drums, guitar and bass. The compositions are well thoughout and, though the planets may be out of order, lead well from one song to the next, each building in intensity. By the time I had travelled past "Mars" to "Jupiter" -- Whew! That asteroid belt! -- I was completely absorbed and flying around "Mercury" was a delight. I thoroughly enjoyed Wanderers of the Neverending Night except for two things: vocals and a bit of redundancy. Brother Phil contributes vocals to four of the eleven songs. His style of delivery is, umm, faux-tortured and doesn't really contribute anything to the mix. In fact, they are buried in 'verb and very hard to understand. They're a bit of a distraction at first but I found them easy enough to listen around. Though present on "Jupiter (Dark Side of Callisto)," they're not enough to keep this song from being one of my favorite on this disc. The redundancy is a minor problem. By the time I had voyaged out to "Saturn" a degree of sameness has crept in. Still, an impressive debut and well worth a listen.
The second release, also on Kinesis (KDCD 1007), is the 61 minute Soul Travels from 1993. The music carries on in the same vein as the first Fonya album and no new territory is explored. I find this to be a bit of a detriment as I would have liked to have seen more variety and exploration of sonic textures relative to Wanderers of the Neverending Night. The majority of the compostions are still fairly strong (I like "Glacier 21," the dreamy and all to short "Voyager" and "Bluefoot," for example) but there is nothing to *contrast* this release with Fonya's previous. A side-long suite would be nice, too! There are now twelve songs so they are slighly shorter on average. I don't detect any conceptual themes among song titles that might be suggested by the album title other than a vague "life's experiences." Nineteenth century classical afficionados will want to note that "The Sea/The Shipwreck" is based on fourth-movement of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Scheherazade." Well, I guess it's time to roll out the obligatory criticisms. The synths used are all digital which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Chris uses some wonderfully spacious timbres with slow attacks and long decays. Combine these with mild doses of reverb and even Robot would get lost in space. But after awhile it grows tiresome. After listening to these two albums many times the thing I wanted the most was for Fournier to cut loose with a good ol' analog solo. Bring on the Moog, Chris! Honestly, that's not a problem of the music but instead a personal preference of mine. My next quibble was with the bass and drums. On Wanders of the Neverending Night both of these rhythmic instruments were well integrated into the texture creating an uniform sound with no instrument dominating any others. On Soul Travels, however, I felt the bass was too prominent which distracted from the spacey elements that I so enjoyed. The same for the drums. The machine patterns began to sound similar by the mid-point of either album. Again, I found this to detract from the cosmic atmosphere I felt was being created. I didn't mind them for a few songs but I didn't want to hear them in each and every song. Finally, back to the drum machine. Chris spent much time gigging with and studying real drummers, including his brother Tony. From them Fournier learned what goes into good progressive drumming and it shows in much of his drum programs, which are generally very good. Obviously, Chris gave a lot of thought to the rhythm tracks. But, one of my beliefs in drum machines is that they shouldn't always be used to play drums. With digital technology, the electronic musician has at his disposal a seemingly infinite variety of sounds that can be used as percussive instrumentation without them sounding like drums or like he's trying to do that Fourth World thang. You have a synthesizer ... synthesize something.
In Flux is Fonya's third release. In Flux offers nothing new and therein lies the problem. The style is not significantly changed and, if Chris continues in this current vein, I'm afraid that even the most devoted fan will tire and look elsewhere. I think it's cool that Chris is able to do his own thing, but I feel the time has come for him to challenge himself and explore other areas. By way of example, only two tracks really stood out on In Flux. The first was "Fleabitten Cat," an ode to his cat that prowls his studio and has been known to stretch his claws on Chris' leg while practicing! The programmed percussion on this cut shows how Chris has developed in his use of the drum machine, an instrument I usually consider a bane of good music. The melody line of synth chasing guitar and other catchy hooks are also nicely done. The best track is a medley cover of "Los Endos" and "Hairless Heart." Once again, his mastery of the drum machine is well-demonstrated. Unfortunately, this well-done cover also shows to me how much it is time for Fonya to move on into different realms. -- Mike Taylor
Chris Fournier released two more albums on the Kinesis label, Earth Shaper and Perfect Cosmological Principle, followed by Upper Level Open Space on Musea and a final album Sunset Cliffs on his own Redshift Productions label. At that point, he called it a day for Fonya, but continues to produce prog rock recordings with a new band under the name Centric Jones. He has also created a new album with other collaborators entitled Project Moonbeam, which, according to the blurb on the Kinesis web site, "is for all intents and purposes a new Fonya CD". I have therefore included it under the Fonya entry.
Most of the old Kinesis label artists are now available for download on Mindawn, including most of the Fonya albums (for some reason, not Soul Travels). Upper Level Open Space is also available on Mindawn because it's a Musea release. The "not really Fonya" album Project Moonbeam is also available there. See and links above. -- Fred Trafton
[See Centric Jones]
Click here for Fonya's web site,
last updated in 2007 and decaying rapidly
Social Gathering (70)
Foodbrain were part of the early Japanese psych scene. Two of its members, Shinki Chen and Hiro Yanagida were part of a circle that included Speed, Glue and Shinki, and Love Life Live + 1. Foodbrain's Social Gathering features Yanagida's swirling Hammond organ and Chen's monsterous blues guitar. Where there is smoke there is fire and these guys smoke! The album has a nice raw vibe that adds to the overall energy of the album. The "normal" songs are connected by brief interludes of experimental bits, harpsichord, and so forth. The longest song, "A Hole in a Sausage" is the most experimental and contains some mad saxophone amidst the obligatory free-form psychedelic freakout. It gets a might tedious unless you're as stoned as those guys were! The rest of the album, though, is good heavy blues/psych. If you like good heavy blues guitar and organ, or are a fan of heavy psychedelia, check out Foodbrain.
[See Love Live Life + One | Speed, Glue and Shinki | Yanagida, Hiro]
86/88 (88), Live (89), Nerd Illusion (90), Illusions (90), Both Worlds (91), Running in Circles (94), FAF Out of HAL (95), Tintinnabulation (96)
Gack! This is typical SI brand neo-prog pop, lacks imagination and creativity, born yesterday, derivative of every other neo-prog band you can think of... just another crappy pop band who's highest goal is to sound like Pendragon.
Powerfully melodic prog band established in the mid-80s and hailing from Rotterdam Holland. Band is centered on the soaring English vocals of A.T. (he, like many Dutch, has almost no trace of an accent in English) and the tight, economical keyboard playing of Peter De Jong. Running in Circles contains some of their best hard rock influenced numbers, such as "Into Love," "Someone Like You" (which features fantastic drumming and grooving guitar), and "The Bald, the Fat, and the Ugly" (instrumental). FAF Out of HAL is a newer release which is half unplugged in the studio and half live in Holland. The acoustic setting allows the band to stretch out with great vocal harmonies and original percussion. The live half features their most popular numbers, including "Attitudes" found on a SI Music complilation CD. The crowd is loud and rowdy. In November of 1996 the band released another CD which I haven't heard yet. -- Antonio Ortolani
[See November. Ilusions is essentially a CD reissue of Nerd Illusion, which was cassette-only. There are fewer songs on the CD.]
Total Eclipse (99)
Force Majeure - László Kovács and Zsolt Vidovenyecz
The group name here is telling, because these two Hungarians have obviously studied their late-70's/early-80's Tangerine Dream albums with great care. Total Eclipse (Periferic Records BGCD038) is a 49-minute electronic suite dedicated to the August 1999 solar eclipse, and displays a wealth of Tangerine Dream mannerisms: pulsing bass lines, cascading bell or piano-like sequences, sweeping pads and clearly drawn but nicely spun out melody lines on alternatively metallic or reedy synth patches. The sprightly melody of "Rainbow" also hails back to Jean-Michel Jarre's glory days, while the arch chords and descending synth lines at the beginning of "Stonehenge" are straight out of Vangelis' majestic Antarctica soundtrack. Though the sources of their ideas are obvious, Force Majeure have clearly put a lot of effort in their compositions and they actually do mix and vary their ingredients in a creative way, rather than just chucking up loads of half-digested bits ripped off from their favourite albums and calling the resulting hotch-potch an original composition. The mainly digital soundscapes on this album are well constructed and of audiophile quality, though perhaps in some cases a bit too General MIDI tinny and obvious (then again, some of TD's early-80's sounds don't stand up any better today). The few shorter tracks serve more as segues and atmosphere builders than songs in their own rights, and for the most part the album eschews conventional rock beats ("Stonehenge" is the main exception). All in all this album will not dazzle anyone with originality, but fans of Tangerine Dream and Vangelis will find a lovingly crafted tribute to some of their heroes' greatest moments. A good album then, but to come up with a truly great album, Force Majeure need a more radical or at least original approach. -- Kai Karmanheimo
for Force Majeure's web site
Full Circle (70)
|[Forest] put out 2 acid-folk style albums on the EMI-Harvest label, UK. Full Circle is my favorite ... it has dark, haunting, yet magical themes, seeming to touch lightly upon Celtic mythologies drenched in subtle acid lyrics. Lots of 12-string and Mandolin prog-folk at its finest. Produced by Malcom Jones, inventor of Harvest Records ... "... for you, the bluebells dance ..." -- Mark Doyle|
Love Cycle (69)
Rarest UK psych.
Artificial Horizon (90)
Opportunity Crosses the Bridge (92)
One Thing After Another (98)
Down With Gravity (00)
Racket Science (05)
Forever Einstein - Kevin Gerety (bass), Charles O'Meara (a.k.a. Vrtacek) (guitar) and John
Roulat (drums and percussion)
Forever Einstein's John Roulat seemed to think I "got it" when I e-mailed to thank him for the promo of their latest CD, Racket Science. Just in case I've had a lapse between then and now, I'll repeat the first impression I told him here:
"I am taken with the clean, un-overdubbed sound. I'm sure you guys could perform these compositions live and sound just like the album. I'm a fan of big symphonic complex sound, but sometimes that gets tiresome. Sometimes it's more interesting to hear what three guys can do without electronic trickery."
I'm thinking that's the part that resonated with John, I guess I have some idea of they're trying to accomplish here. Forever Einstein is as oddball as anything on the Cuneiform label, but they manage to do it without much in the way of dissonance. The music can take jarring leaps into unexpected directions, but when it does, it will usually sound like something familiar ... surf rock, melodic prog, rock'n'roll and even sitar music, but not into anything that isn't harmonious. No thickening with Mellotron or orchestral samplers, no heavy chording with guitars. In fact, keyboards of any sort are used only sparingly; this album is mostly about guitar, bass and drums. The same instrumentation as The Stray Cats, and sometimes sounds like them -- for about five seconds, before bouncing off into some other direction. The orchestration is the musical equivalent of pointillism, where you can always hear each note distinctly ... nothing is ever lost in a wash of sound.
But lest you think this makes them not wierd enough for you, I'll just say that more than anyone else they remind me of Fred Frith circa Gravity. That's not too straitlaced for you, is it? Plenty of odd meters and angular melodies to keep you interested for multiple listenings, yet with enough points of reference to not sound overly alien. Great stuff, and highly recommended! -- Fred Trafton
|It's almost always a mistake to have high expectations about a band, but from the buzz, I was looking forward to hearing these guys. After listening to their Down With Gravity CD a couple times, however, I began to rapidly lose interest. I suppose in the purest sense of the term, they are progressive, it's just that they progress into areas that kinda bore me. A strange and somewhat fun mix of surf, electronic and garage, Forever Einstein's weird din just left me flat. -- David Marshall|
Click here for Forever Einstein's web site
Click here to order Forever Einstein CD's from Cuneiform Records
Cocktail (77), L'Oeil (91, recorded earlier?), Art d'Echo (92)
French guy who apparently has several albums. L'oeil is the one recently released by Musea, the sound gravitates between progressive, fusion, pop, and even hits borderline disco in a couple places. The good stuff is good and the bad stuff is lame, about 50/50 overall.
Patrick Forgas is a highly talented multi-instrumentalist who has been around since the seventies. Unlike his previous release L'Oeil, Art d'Echo is an instrumental album with very little singing. Forgas also allows room for his guest musicians to play acoustic instruments (sax, flute, brass, and guitar). Nine of the ten songs were recorded in 1992 while My Trip is the second side of the LP Cocktail recorded in 1977. Art d'Echo hints at Soft Machine's Third due to Jean-Pierre Thirault's outstanding saxophone. I also detect similarities to Weather Report and Miles Davis. The high point of the album for me is the nineteen minute opus, "My Trip." I think this song works better than the rest because of the interaction of the six musicians laying down licks and playing off each other. I do not get the same feeling of interaction on the other tracks. If nothing else, seek out this disc just for My Trip. If you enjoy the Canterbury or Zao form of jazz, you won't be disappointed.
Fiction Edge 1 (Ascent) (00)
From the title of Forgotten Suns' debut CD, it seems clear that this is intended to
be the first album of several. The opening piece is a spacey synth piece titled "Big
Bang" which is somewhat reminiscent of Pink Floyd's
"Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun", but without vocals. After this mellow
intro the next tune "Creation Point" becomes all Prog Metal; crunchy guitars, thrashing
drums and rasping vocals, though with lots of good synthesizer and organ work sweetening
the sound and keeping it from being totally guitar-dominated. A nice guitar solo and tops
off the cut.
The next song, "Rising Nature Child" is another instrumental, with some definite Rush flavorings ... phase-shifted clean electric picking a-la Alex Lifeson, then a string synth section. There are several more quiet moody instrumentals with acoustic piano and a crying baby which seguès into the short "The Warning", a quieter clean electric piece. The going gets heavier after this with "Wartime", back to Prog Metal again.
Well, I don't need to go through every song, do I? You get the idea, Forgotten Suns covers roughly the same territory as a Rush album would, though their vocalist (who sings in English) sounds nothing like Geddy Lee and tends to growl a lot during the more Metallic sections. Perhaps a bit fresher and more Progressive (and with flashier keyboard solos) than Rush's latest few offerings. This is a good CD, well worth a listen for those who like their Prog on the metallic side. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Forgotten Suns' web site
Click here to order CD from Galileo Records
Largos Sueños (81)
The Forminx (76, re-issued on CD in 1998)
The Ultimate Greek Pop (?, only on 1 CD of 5, same songs as above plus bonus material)
The Forminx was a '60's Greek pop band that would have no place in the GEPR except for one reason: it was Evangelos Papathanassiou's first band. (Just look at these guys ... are they a bunch of Buddy Holly wannabees or what?). Of course, he's better known as Vangelis. The Forminx had a hit single in 1965 and disbanded in 1966. They didn't release any albums during their active years, but there was a later release of archival material as listed in the discography. They mostly performed at parties and never got paid much. After this band broke up, Vangelis formed Aphrodite's Child and began to explore more progressive waters. By way of warning, don't buy one of these albums just because Vangelis is on it without knowing what you're getting into first. This is '60's pop, not prog. -- Fred Trafton
[See Aphrodite's Child |
Jon and Vangelis |
Click here for Elsewhere, a
Vangelis fan web site with information on The Forminx
Signals (89), Blue (92)
Another band influenced by Marillion, contributing to the resurgence of the "prog" sound in the nineties.
Formula is a six piece from Germany, featuring the basic four plus flute and vocals (in English). Their sound blends elements of mainstream and progressive rock, jazz, and just a touch of classical and blues into a synthesis generally characterized by long instrumental passages, to-the-point lyrics, plenty of nice guitar-keyboard-flute correlativity, and a vocalist who will remind of Peter Gabriel. I've heard a second album is out now.
Dies Irae (70), Formula Tre (71), Sognando E Risognando (72), La Grande Casa (73)
A trio, although not really resembling the usual, their guitarist Alberto Radius would go on to help form the great Il Volo. They put out four early albums which are all different in style. Probably the only one worthy of high praise is their third Sogrando E Risognando a highly inventive album who's styles are very diverse.
A good band delivering commercial prog, where the best LP (more prog) is Sognando. After this group split, Alberto Radius and Gabriele Lorenzi played in Il Volo. Alberto Radius is now solo.
Alberto Radius was a leading light on the seventies progressive scene in Italy, and he was the guitarist for this band, whose last two releases were very much in the early PFM vein, with mellow guitar/keyboard melodies. La Grande Casa is possibly their best release, and should appeal to those who enjoy PFM, Le Orme, and Il Volo, which Radius formed after the demise of Formula 3.
Italian prog-pop. I've only heard La Grande Casa, and while it has its share of nice songs ("Rapsodia di Radius," "Liberta per Quest'Uomo"), it's really very commercial, and quite a letdown when compared to all the other great Italian prog out there. "Cara Giovanna" and "Bambina Sbagliata" sound like something your parents might listen to if your parents happen to be Italian, while "La Cilegia Non E Di Plastica" is a straight rock song with grunting vocals. Guitarist Alberto Radius has shown much more in his subsequent work with the infinitely better Il Volo. To be fair, Sognando e Risognando is supposed to be more progressive than this, earlier albums more psychedelic. -- Mike Ohman
Bambi Fossati E Garybaldi (90?)
More direct blues approach than Garybaldi.
[See Bambibanda E Melodie | Garybaldi]
Arrival (96, as Joe Bergamini)
Radio Waves Goodbye (02)
4Front - Zak Rizvi (guitar), Joe Bergamini (drums) and Frank LaPlaca (bass)
4Front seems to be drummer Joe Bergamini's baby, even though he's "only" the drummer. Joe and the other two musicians in this band are all excellent, and Radio Waves Goodbye is the album where they all get to show off their chops in a slickly-produced jazz-rock format. The drumming is mixed in a dominant position on this CD, but it's intricate and melodic enough to deserve this spotlight ... in the 4Front, as it were. If you're interested, Bergamini also plays in a Rush cover band named Power Windows, emulating Neil Peart's intricate drum stylings, so this should give you some indication of his prowess as a drummer.
Bergamini told me that "the music will appeal to fans of Rush, Genesis, Dream Theater, Dregs, Yes, Satriani, Vai, Dolby, Marillion, etc (as well as fans of New Age)". Well, while I agree that this album will have some appeal among prog fans, some of these bands are too far afield for me to think of them as good comparisons. 4Front would be too fusiony for Rush or Dream Theater hard-rock fans, not proggy enough for Genesis, Yes or even Marillion fans, and I don't even know what this has to do with Dolby (Thomas, I assume) or New Age. On the other hand, Dregs isn't that bad a comparison, though 4Front has no country flavorings, and Satriani and Vai aren't bad comparisons either, though this album isn't quite as much about super-flashy guitar work. Excellent guitar work, don't get me wrong ... actually, this is a complement since I find this album to be better balanced among the band members than the Satriani and Vai I've heard.
This CD might be a bit too much "L.A. slick night club" sound for some progressive rock fans ... these guys would make a great band for The Tonight Show, for example ... but there's no denying the tight musicianship and complexity on this album. There's also nothing the slightest bit threatening or difficult here. Fine with me. I get tired of threatening and difficult sometimes, and this is just great high-energy melodic jazz-rock. I'm occasionally reminded of Toto or Steely Dan, though Radio Waves Goodbye is less ballady than their albums tend to be, and also has some interesting breaks for special effects and hot soloing from each of the members, making it seem more progressive and less commercial than those guys. Still, there's at least as much of Dave Brubek here as of Weather Report.
Most of the songs on the album were written by guitarist/keyboardist Zak Rizvi except for one by bassist Frank LaPlaca, and their cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (you know, "Ground control to Major Tom") with an ending chorus from Elton John's "Rocket Man" ("and I think it's gonna be a long long time ..."). This is the longest cut on the album and is an excellent interpretation of this chestnut ... perhaps better than Bowie's original. Certainly more progressive.
Bottom line ... an excellent fusiony jazz-rock album, which should have wide appeal among those looking for this kind of music. -- Fred Trafton
News 2/9/04: Joe Bergamini has disbanded the previously-mentioned Power Windows band and has now joined Happy The Man as their new drummer. This will delay the release of the next 4Front album, as Bergamini is working on a new HTM album. Expect a new 4Front album late in 2004. -- Fred Trafton
[See Happy The Man]
Click here for Joe Bergamini's web site
14bis II (85), Performance (88)
14BIS is one of Brazil's premier progressive pop bands. Drawing on diverse influences from the Beatles to Pink Floyd to South American folk themes, these guys have put together a unique sound which is very positive and uplifting, with catchy tunes that stay with you all day long, demanding another listen. They have several albums out spanning the last decade or so. Performance is a "Best of" combined with some excellent live material, for a total of 65+ minutes of their absolute best stuff. Lyrics are in Portuguese.
[See Terco, O]
Fourth Estate (88, 5-song demo cassette)
Edge of the Shadow (89, 10-song demo cassette)
In Phase (90, 5-song demo cassette)
Finesse and Fury (92)
See What I See (95)
Joy in Rock (97, Live)
|Colorado, U.S., area instrumental band on the Hapi Skratch label that offers complex guitar-oriented rock. The first album is more straight- ahead a la Steve Morse/Dixie Dregs while the second offers more soundscapes and ethnic textures. Definitely has shades of Rush. -- Anthony DeBarros|
Click here for a very outdated
Fourth Estate web site
The Fourth Way (69?), Werwolf (70), The Sun and the Moon Have Come Together (71?)
Not a progressive or fusion band, per se, but a seminal early electric jazz group (Mike Nock - keyboards, Ron McClure - bass, Michael White - violin, Eddie Marshall - drums) based in the San Francisco Bay Area. They issued three recordings, two of which are on Capitol's "Harvest" subsidiary. The Fourth Way's sound was a plugged-in version of late '60s hard bop (e.g Horace Silver, Art Blakey, etc.), plus some avant-garde stylings thrown in. Overall, The Fourth Way's music was much less aggressive and experimental than that of the far better known fusion groups that followed one or two years later (e.g., Mahavishnu Orchestra, Weather Report, etc.). Their first album features the compositions of keyboardist Mike Nock, and is a pretty straight-ahead modern jazz record with funky, bluesy and avant-garde flourishes. Werwolf, a dynamic live set, is a vast improvement over their first record for several reasons. The playing of the entire ensemble (especially drummer Eddie Marshall) is unusually spirited, and several fine compositions ("Brown Rice," "Mesoteric Circle," "Spacefunk," and "Tierra del Fuego") provide a springboard for solos by Nock (excellent on highly distorted Fender Rhodes piano) and White (whose violin sound is a bit tinny). Their final album, also a live recording, was pretty much in the same vein as Werwolf, albeit a bit more subdued. Mike Nock has recorded a few solo albums which are mostly in the straight-ahead acoustic jazz vein. However, one of Nock's records (Climbing on the now-defunct "Tomato" label) is a really fine jazz-fusion effort which would appeal to the more adventurous prog-rock listener. -- Dave Wayne
A Shadow Of The Past (84, released 89)
This band hails from Norway, and has only one release entitled A Shadow of the Past. Despite their name, they remind one much more of later Camel (ala Stationary Traveler) than old Genesis. Their music is very melodic and pleasing to the ear, with excellent vocals and instrumentation. Highly recommended if you can find it!
Audion implied that this was one of the very worst neo-prog albums, and that all they were was a "shadow of the past"! :-)
If you don't expect this to sound like the Genesis album it was named after then you won't be disappointed. Actually it's not bad, weighing in somewhere near Pallas, the songs are quite good and, while not the most originally styled sound around, these guys sound far better than the average neo-prog. Actually the band was from Norway and had some other name when they were together, but their album never got released. Years later when they finally found a record deal, the record company decided to renamed the band....
Frágil (79) Note: This CD is listed on several Frálgil
discographies, but not on their official discog.
Avenida Larco (81)
Frágil (92, CD compilation of first two albums)
Cuento Real (94)
Sorpresa del Tiempo (02)
Frágil - Jorge Durand (drume), Luis Valderrama (guitars), Octavio
Castillo (synthesizers, flute, steel guitar), Andrés Dulude (vocals,
acoustic guitar), Cesar Bustamante (keyboards, 6 & 12-string acoustic guitars)
For more than twenty years, Frágil has been and continues to be the most prominent progressive band in the rather wane Peruvian rock scene, though their musical production per se has been quite inconsistent. Having started their musical career as a Yes/Genesis cover band in the mid 70's, the band learned to forge and foster their own symphonic style, seasoned with diverse South American folk and acoustic touches. During their seminal years, the band earned an ever increasing number of devoted fans, who were mesmerized by the charisma and theatrical personality of lead vocalist Andrés Dulude. He also wrote almost all the lyrics, which usually dealt with social and introspective issues. The other members were: Octavio Castillo on keyboards, flute, steel guitar, mandolin and vocals; César Bustamante on bass, additional keyboards and vocals; Luis Valderrama on lead, acoustic and classical guitars; and Arturo Creamer on drums and percussion - all of them working together effectively as a well oiled ensemble. Of course, the presence of guitar, synth and some flute solos was here and there, but the general norm was to keep the ensemble working as a musical unit. Their melodic sense may remind the listener of other South American bands such as Espíritu, or even the typical Italian sensibility of Locanda delle Fate or PFM.
This line-up released their first album Avenida Larco in 1981, being very well received both by fans and critics. Numbers like "Oda al Tulipán", "Mundo Raro", "Pastas, Pepas y Otros Postres", "Hombres Solos" and the title track were specially featured in their repertoire. The album, as a whole, exhibited the best musical qualities of the band, as described above. Regrettably, the record label stopped to support the band, which eventually led to Dulude's departure, and a long time of low profile, even bordering on break-up.
Fortunately, in 1988 Dulude reunited his old band mates, who also welcomed a new, younger drummer/percussionist, Jorge Durand. Old fans recovered their enthusiasm, and new ones were gained, so their second album Serranio was quite successful. More rock-oriented than their debut, still their progressive leanings were present in tracks like "Cuánto Hay", "Inquietudes", the semi-folkish instrumental "Huarmy", and the eerie ballad "Aquella Niña". All in all, the same old financial and management problems resurfaced. Having recorded new material in 1992, they weren't able to release until 2 years later, under the title Cuento Real. This work is more genuinely progressive than its immediate predecessor. The title track, "Historia de Adelaida", and "Mirando a Través del Cristal", as well as a couple of brief folkish instrumental themes, reflected a more conscious back-to-roots attitude in the compositions. But by then, Dulude had left the band once again.
Heading on into the future, a new vocalist named Santino de la Tore was recruited. His glamour-rock personality seriously affected the band's direction, which eventually led to the recording of Alunado, their most irregular and least inspired work to date. Even though there are a few notable tracks that sound really progressive (including the title track, an electronic-ethnic number a la Peter Gabriel), most of the album consists of rather uninspired mainstream rock numbers.
... But in 1999, Dulude returned to the fold, and soon after, the band played a number of concerts with the support of musicians of the Philharmonic Orchestra of Lima, to full houses. The first of these concerts was registered and edited in the 2002 CD entitled Sorpresa del Tiempo, which also included two bonus tracks: the namesake, a beautiful acoustic song, and "Fotograma", a rockier number with intricate time signatures. The live material consists of almost all songs from their debut album, plus three tracks from ulterior records. The result is quite good. The performances of all band members is impressive, and so is the fluid musical dialogue between band and orchestra. Hopefully, this will be an indication of more good things to come from this talented emblematic band. -- Cesar Mendoza
Having only heard their latest outing on the Musea
label, Sorpresa del Tiempo, I can't help but be imnpressed with this band. This
live album has an extremely symphonic sound ... well, it can hardly help it since they're
playing with a 29-piece orchestra. Yet, the arrangements are all quite nice, with the
orchestra sounding like a really good extra keyboard, and not struggling to fit
in with the rock instruments at all (as they were for, say,
Rick Wakeman's Journey to the Center of the Earth
and countless other attempts at rock band/orchestra fusions).
Musically, they remind me a bit of Genesis with occasional outbursts of ELPish keyboards and soft, Camel-like passages (especially when Octavio Castillo is playing the flute). There are some ballady cuts that flirt with Arena Rock for their anthemic sincerity, though they never quite cross over into Styx-like pomposity. There are also sections that remind of Italian-style symphonic prog, perhaps a bit like Uomo di Pezza-era Le Orme. Although there are echoes of these and other bands, Frágil doesn't really sound very derivative of anyone, though their sound is somehow familiar and comfortable. Sorpresa del Tiempo is a CD of a really nice prog band playing an excellent, well-recorded concert. It's amazing to hear the audience all singing along with these songs ... they're obviously well-known in Peru. An enjoyable album, and a great intro to this band. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Frágil's web site
Click here to order Sorpresa del Tiempo from Musea Records
Rock and Blue (??)
Mary, What Have You Become? (69, 7 inch single)
Haverjack Drive (70, 7 inch single)
A multi-styled band with strong progressive sensibilities, though I'm not sure just how
progressive they are. It's worth noting that their recordings were all produced by
Rod Argent and Chris White at the same time that the two
ex-Zombies were working for Argent. I had a friend listen
to Free Ferry's stuff, asking him if it sounded progressive; he basically shrugged but
said that they reminded him of early Yes (whose work I have not
yet heard). The B-side of their second single is in the Fields
/ Cressida / Greenslade vein.
Regardless, the two singles put out by this group are pretty interesting. The first has a mournful ballad with a string quartet and lyrics similar to Brian Wilson's "Caroline, No" on side A, whilst the B-side, facetiously titled "Friend", is an agressive garage rocker. Both are executed in an unconventional style that smacks of prog rock. Most striking is a part of "Friend" where the instruments sputter to a halt as the singer solemnly intones "Help me get back what is rightfully mine"; this moment sounds like it was pulled from a prog tune of prophetic implications rather than a simple garage rock piece.
Their second, Haverjack Drive, has a pleasant but conventional rocker on the A-side, but makes up for it with a B-side, "Flying", which is undeniably prog, albeit rather moderate prog. It opens with a symphonic crescendo before relaxing into soft vocals and electric guitar behind a steady organ beat. Though "Flying" only clocks in at 4 minutes, it accomplishes a fair deal in that time. A nice symphonic prog piece.
Sadly, there's no information on who Free Ferry actually were, and when I asked Rod Argent he said he couldn't remember. All their songs were written by a Jeff Martin, who one source claims was the organist/lead vocalist, and that Justin Scharvona was the bassist/pianist. However, I don't know how trustworthy that source is.
Free Ferry are a group that has delved intensely into prog ideas without quite letting themselves be categorized as a prog group with a capital "P". It would be most interesting to hear an album by these guys; as it is, however, I'll just have to settle for listening to the singles and guessing at what it was they were trying to accomplish. If you have a spare moment, I recommend you to do the same. Whatever their progressive standing is, this is good stuff: strong, energetic performances given to ingenuous compositions. -- Robert Orme
[Editor's note: Here's another one of those cases where I'm going to violate my rule about
band members not being able to provide content for the GEPR. Sometimes only a band member
can really tell you anything about a band, and this is one of those cases. So thanks to former
Free Ferry drummer David Hempstead, I can now pass along some good info about
this band. I'll just cut and paste his e-mail to me here as-is with no further comment (I've
reformatted the album titles, song names, etc. using the GEPR standards).]
|Free Love is a Japanese 60's-styled psychedelic band with only one release I'm aware of, Apocalypse. They seem to have no web presence at all, so I have no way of checking up on that. However, their (debut?) album was released on Musea Records and sorta sounds like a mixture of Led Zeppelin (there's even a barely-recognizable but nicely re-imagined cover of "Kashmir") and Magical Mystery Tour-era Beatles, but with Deep Purpleish organ work and maybe a dash of Uriah Heep as well. I have a tough time calling this album "prog", but it's not bad in spite of that, if you like trippy psychedelic rock complete with phase-shifting, backward drumming and "somebody shut off power to the tape machine" slowdowns. Not what I'd expect from a Japanese band at all. Unexpectedly interesting. -- Fred Trafton|
Click here to order
Apocalypse from Musea Records
Freedom At Last (69)
Through the Years (71)
Freedom Is More Than A Word (72)
Here's their Freedom is more than a word lineup:
Roger Saunders - piano, guitar vocals (ex Washington DC),
Steve Jolly - guitar (ex Sam Apple Pie),
Pete Dennis - bass, acoustic guitar, vocals,
Bobby Harrison - drums, congas, vocals (ex Procol Harum).
According to th CD-sleeve, the group was formed in 1967 by drummer Bobby Harrison and guitarist Roy Rogers (both from Procol Harum, where they appeared on "Winter Shade Of Pale" single). Bassist Steve Shirley and organist Robin Lumsden joined the band and they released a single. Since then the lineup changed several times, in fact all albums have different staff. In 1972 the group split. They played on stage with Black Sabbath, Jethro Tull, Curved Air, ELP and Soft Machine. I have only their last album - Freedom is more than words. In general it sound rather bluesy, has much in common with early Allman Brothers Band, features nice guitar solos. The first track has some folky Fairport Convention-like strings. The forth 8-minute composition named "Brainbox Jam" sounds very progressive, it reminds of Faust. The fifth track, "Direction" features Renaissance-like piano solos. "Dream" and "Ladybird" (the last two tracks) also have piano and strings but sound a bit poppy IMHO. As Freedom mixes blues with prog it may be compared with Colosseum. -- Pothead (from Moscow)
Fate Not Choice (88, Cassette EP)
Surface Tension (89, Cassette EP)
Deus Ex Machina (90, Cassette EP)
Freefall (original line-up) - Simon Godfrey (drums), Andy Lovatt (vocals), Paul
Worwood (bass), Jim Harris (guitar) and Jem Godfrey (keyboards)
Entry added 11/1/04:
Freefall were neo-prog of the first order. They were formed from a London (UK) college covers band in 1986 around the talents of Jem Godfrey and Jim Harris who were both eager to stretch the prog envelope as far as it would go. Their songwriting incorporated elements of heavy metal of the kind that would later prove successful for bands like Queensrÿche and Dream Theater.
For me, the sound of Freefall in the first few years was an open battle between their prog and metal roots. "When The Heart Beats Faster" from their first cassette EP Fate Not Choice was a blend of 80's staccato riffing and walls of DX7 strings. As the band's identity matured however, their arrangements became increasingly sophisticated. Their eponymous track (for example) demonstrated an urge to extend themselves through many different styles. The guitars chugged Metallica-like through a maze of Genesis-esque chord progressions while Andrew Lovatt's Gabriel-influenced singing told the story of a man's last moments after jumping from his stricken WW1 bi-plane.
Their brief but bright live existence began by supporting a blues band at a local pub. Eight weeks later they opened for IQ at the Marquee, only their third live gig. Over the next three years, they went on to support such prog luminaries as Ark, Jadis, Galahad and Geoff Mann, gathering a small but loyal following and even some national press attention (in UK Heavy Metal magazine Kerrang!). The band's tour de force in the early days, was a "metalized" rendition of Peter Gabriel's "On The Air" which was a crowd pleaser and earned them an encore at their Marquee debut. I did notice that the band seemed to have a loathing to step foot outside London and apart from the odd trip up the M1 to the Midlands, they were virtually unknown in the rest of the UK.
In addition to their dislike of travel, Freefall's natural suspicion of the studio was self evident by the poor production quality of most of their recordings. The cassette format did not flatter their sound and even when the band eventually recorded a CD (Thrown), the result was thin and lacked presence.
All in all, the band produced three cassette EP's: Fate Not Choice (1988), Surface Tension (1989) for which they are best known; the title song (an Anthrax meets Rush hymn to the powers of deception) became their signature track, Deus Ex Machina (1990) and finally the full length album Thrown (1991). All of their releases were self financed and distributed either through gigs or mail order.
Sadly, the acquisition of management in 1990 signalled the beginning of the end for the band and led to Jim Harris leaving under a cloud followed swiftly by Andrew Lovatt. Their replacements, John Boyes on guitar and Jean Paul Orr on vocals led the band to a more hard rock sound in the style of Led Zeppelin or Living Colour. A prime example of this was "Hellstate", a guitar led behemoth, which describes a society enslaved to consumerism that gradually decays into chaos. The track was never recorded in its entirety but the main theme appears in the Thrown CD track "It's Not A Game".
Jim Harris' departure signalled the beginning of the end of Freefall's potency as an effective songwriting unit however and although John Boyes was more technically gifted, Jem Godfrey slowly realised that the chemistry was no longer there. At the end of 1991 he followed his old writing partner into a new non-prog outfit Charlotte's Web. The remaining Freefall members toyed with the idea of replacing Jem Godfrey but with the last of the original writing partnership gone, they called it a day in early 1992.
Overall, I think that Freefall can best be described as a brave but flawed attempt to cross the boundaries between prog and metal which, although never properly captured on record, enabled them to carve a unique (albeit short-lived) niche in the 80's neo-prog movement. I miss them but due to their ultra low profile worldwide, I'm sure no-one else would have even noticed their passing. -- Robert Ramsay
[See Frost* |
Click here to order
Thrown from Lazy Gun Records. Well, theoretically. They seem to be all out of
CD's. Of anybody. Heck of a way to run a business.
Thinking Out Loud (89)
Another obscure release from yet another obscure American band, this time from the 1980s. Thinking
Out Loud was a 1989 cassette-only release, but this CD re-release (InEarVisions Music IEV-9503-2)
has four extra tracks from earlier and later sessions, as well as extensive liner notes. Hence recording
quality varies from rough studio shine to flat-out garage grunge. A guitar-heavy quartet from North
Carolina, they were known to play covers of King Crimson,
Happy the Man,
UK and various fusion bands. Those influences are never far from the
surface in their own, primarily instrumental compositions.
"Kinetic Eggs", for example, is a virtual pastiche of KC 1974 and 1981, alternating surging powerchord riffs with clean-picked rock gamelan ostinati. "Mirkwood" is an ambient piece in the style of "The Sheltering Sky" and "Nuages", using a percussion loop almost identical to the latter, but it also weaves a nice patch of folky melody and silvery 12-string to its web of guitar pointillism and synthesizer abstractions. Happy the Man is more evident on "Camels Dance", which consists of a sparkling carousel-like synthesizer riff in 7/8 underpinned by an effectively sparse bass figure and overlaid with long, fusionesque guitar lines. "RH Factor", which is really a succession of keyboard, guitar and sax solos over episodically shifting instrumental backgrounds, also highlights a basic problem with Freehand's approach to constructing their songs. Fashioned out of jams and modulated with fusion's preference for creating musical structures as vehicles for virtuoso playing, many of the instrumentals seem static and aimless underneath their busy surfaces, lacking in focusing melodic ideas and developmental drive.
On the other hand, the four vocal tracks seem to serve as intentionally comic diversions, from the funked-up "Elephant Talk" copy "Mastodon" to the tad overplayed powerballad "Another Way to Survive" and the progressive pamphleteering of "3 Chords of Something", which groans and stutters under the weight of its rhythmic complexities and melodic obtuseness. This album has lots of excellent playing, especially from bassist Brian Preston (future Smokin' Granny), whose lines are always creative and illuminating, but the band rarely manage to transcend their influences or to create interesting enough compositions to showcase their virtuosity on. Fans of Crimson and fusion may still find it fun to listen to. Though Freehand dissolved in 1990, they reformed for a string of concerts in 2004. -- Kai Karmanheimo
French TV (83)
After A Lengthy Silence (86)
Virtue in Futility (94)
Intestinal Fortitude (95)
Tonight In Concert: French TV "Yoo-Hoo!!!" (97, Live)
The Violence of Amateurs (99)
The Case Against Art (02)
Pardon our French! (04)
This is What We Do (06)
I Forgive You for All My Unhappiness (10)
French TV (The Violence of Amateurs line-up) - Chris Vincent (drums, in front), Mike Sary
(bass, behind him), Dean Zigoris (former guitarist, back left) and Warren Dale (keyboards
& woodwinds, back right)
This band from Kentucky employs a HEAVY bass and strong rhythms, with possibly some influence from Magma. The styles range from roaring pounding complex-rock to disjointed artsy pieces, with plenty of jazz influence thrown in ... although one probably wouldn't call it fusion, all of those elements are present. Maybe closer to the Canterbury sound of Soft Machine and others.
French TV is the recording moniker for Louisville, Kentucky bassist Mike Sary and friends, including Fenner Castner on drums, Artie Bratton and Dean Zigoris on guitars, Paul Nevitt and Bob Ramsey on keyboards, and Reid Jahn, Richard Brooner and Bruce Krohmer on brass and woodwinds. The music on Virtue in Futility draws from a variety of influences including fusion, more traditional jazz, the Canterbury scene, Yes, classical music and Frank Zappa, all mixed with no small sense of humor. Diverse, yet cohesive, most of the seven songs are supported on foundations of strong, engaging compositions built by talented musicians. Often, one song will tread across many different styles. For example, "Clanghonktweet" opens with violin, piano and bass in classical rigidity, overlaid with a fusionesque rhythm, later followed by a somewhat melancholy Wind Synth solo, bound together in a matrix of proggy synth. After the Wind Synth solo, the band jumps into a groove ala Jean-Luc Ponty. "The Family That Oonts Together, Groonts Together" works through tight, twisting riffs characteristic of Zappa's excellent fusion work. "I'm Whining For That Baby of Mine" sounds like an improvisational blow across Henry Cow and Soft Machine fields. "Empate," after a "contemporary" trumpet solo, plows headlong into an oncoming train of progressive fusion. Sary, no slouch on the bass, has coupled himself with a superb and tasteful drummer; the two make a powerhouse rhythm section to propel the music through the many surprising hairpin turns. There are a few blemishes in the finished product, however. The most obviously flaw is "Friends in High Places," Sary's political statement. A mash of tapes extracted from the Iran-Contra hearings, infused with synth and drum machines, the song portrays Sary's anger with the covert deal gone awry, but will severely date the album and will be ignored beyond the initial listen by most listeners. The above-mentioned improv gets a might tedious, lasting for over six minutes but never developing a groove. "Slowly I Turn ... Step By Step ... Inch By Inch" is a mixed bag of aimlessness and purpose. Overall, though, Virtue in Futility as a lot to offer with few flaws. French TV seems destined to languish in obscurity but undeservedly so. -- Mike Taylor
The new French TV album is not only as outstanding as their previous masterpiece The Violence of Amateurs, but also, it clearly shows that the words like "repetition", "stagnation", and not to mention "decadence", aren't applicable to such true Heroes of Prog as French TV.
The Case Against Art is another remarkable example of these veterans' indefatigability in searching for new ways in their creation. Each of the five compositions that are featured on the album, contain very diverse and complex arrangements, all of which are filled with seemingly endless and often atonal interplay between various soloing instruments, constant and mostly sudden changes of tone and mood, etc. Also, it must be mentioned that there are not many musicians on the contemporary Progressive Rock scene who would be as masterful by all means as the members of French TV.
As for the stylistics the band presented on this album, don't expect to hear something typical for their previous works. Here, you won't find even the slight traces of RIO and real Jazz-Fusion (let alone Canterbury, which has nothing to do with the creation of French TV). On the whole, the music on The Case Against Art represents a very innovative manifestation of Classic Symphonic Progressive. Just the elements of Jazz-Fusion and Prog-Metal (yeah) that are also presented here, are nothing else but the usual components of that genre, aren't they? You can easily find them in the early (classic!) albums by Yes, ELP, Jethro Tull, etc, etc. It's quite another matter that on The Case Against Art, all of those notorious genre constituents were used in such an original way that the album sounds as innovative and futuristic as, for example, Yes's Tales From Topographic Oceans had sounded at the time when it was released. In that way, the most correct definition of the new style of French TV would be not just Classic Symphonic Progressive, but a unique blend of Classic Symphonic Art-Rock and Fifth Element. Despite the title of the album, this music is real Art - in the truest meaning of the word. In other words, with such strong lawyers (the new lawmakers of Prog) as French TV, Art won the case against it. -- Vitaly Menshikov
My original review of The Case Against Art was so lame that I embarrassed myself. So, now that I'm ready to review Pardon Our French and FTV's latest This Is What We Do, I'll remove the stupidest parts of my old review and only keep the parts that don't sound quite so brain-damaged.
The first French TV album I ever heard was The Case Against Art. After reading the above reviews, I expected to hear a fusion album. Not hardly. While there are some fusiony bits and pieces, I was more frequently reminded of the so-called Canterbury bands. In particular, there are parts that recall National Health because of the crazed non-harmonies and also because of the almost Gongish sense of humor (without the drug-induced psychedelic leanings). The themes slip easily between serious jazzy parts, an outburst of blues for two measures, sections of cartoon chase music and finally ending up with a warped 3/4 oom-pah beat (with a female vocal rapping something in German). It's not really like anything you've heard before, but there's also nothing that will make you gasp and reach for the bottle of Motrins. You may want to have your Ritalin handy, though, this is definitely Attention Deficit Disorder music for people who can't stand to be doing one thing for more than thirty seconds at a time. Not at all predictable, yet somehow very comfortable for the experienced prog music connoisseur.
Mostly instrumental, The Case Against Art never pauses on any theme long enough for it to get boring. The mood varies from solemn to silly to pastoral and relaxing, then on to teeth-grinding angst as fast as you think you've figured out what's going to happen next. The music is not as rhythmically precise as you might hear from a fusion band, but is instead more layed-back, sometimes almost loose in its orchestration. Also, despite what others have said, I do not consider the bass to be super-heavy or Magma-like at all ... it is merely excellently played and in exactly the right place in the overall sound mix. I must say, however, that this album fails to make its "case against art" ... it has instead made a case for how great art can be! Highly recommended!
The next album is Pardon Our French, also known as FTV8 (being their eighth album of course). Guitarist Dean Zigoris no longer contributes on this album, but has been replaced by Chris Smith, who also plays electric violin (Smith had already contributed to FTV7 as well). Pardon Our French has some sections that are more subdued and fusiony than The Case Against Art, but also goes more far afield into RIO territory. Or perhaps I should say "avant-prog" ... lots of rhythmically and harmonically "difficult" passages. I say "difficult" as in "hard to listen to", though I'm certain the same applies to playing this stuff. But like many other difficult things, the effort to get through the first listening or two reaps huge rewards as your brain reorganizes and rewires itself to be able to hear this strange stuff. It suddenly starts making sense after the second or third listening. And then you wonder why you thought it was so difficult the first time. That's prog.
All the cuts on Pardon Our French are great, but "The Pardon Our French Medley" deserves special mention. This is a tribute to French bands, and includes motifs from Ange, Pulsar, Shylock, Carpe Diem, Atoll and Etron Fou Leloublan, each given the French TV "treatment". They even invited a female vocalist (Natalie Nichole Gilbert) to sing in french for this medley, which almost certainly has more of Sary's composition in it than the remains of the originals. Another excellent album, and again highly recommended.
This brings me to French TV's most recent release, This Is What We Do. Wow. Even more difficult. Even more rewarding. On the first listen to this album, I must say it didn't quite "click" for me. But after a couple of spins, I think this is the best thing I've heard from French TV, and I like the previous two albums a lot. If Zappa had been able to write music as complex as The Grand Wazoo during the time he was recording We're Only In It For The Money or Uncle Meat, it might have sounded something like this. I'm frequently reminded of Zappa because of the frequent outbursts of triplets, pentuplets and whatever-uplets of "gnat notes" that cause what passes for melodic lines to suddenly stumble a few steps, then stagger back into sync again. It would sound like a mistake except that all the instruments do the same thing all at once, which means it's scored this way! My best advice would be: don't try to dance to this! As if you were planning on doing that anyway. Just listen ... after the first couple of times, it will all sound perfectly natural. Really.
I had a couple of e-mail exchanges with Mike Sary late last year, and he talked to me a bit about the band and his feelings about the status of French TV. One of the ongoing issues has been that half of the band (Mike Sary and Jeff Gard) reside in Louisville, Kentucky, while the other half (Warren Dale and Chris Smith) reside in San Diego, California. This has made it tough to work together, especially on music of this complexity. Further, it has made playing in front of an audience a huge logistical problem. So, at the beginning of last year, as This Is What We Do was being finished, Warren Dale let Mike Sary know that he felt he had said all he wanted to say in the context of French TV, so the two halves of the band have split (amicably). Mike is trying to put together a French TV line-up who are all in Louisville so that they can practice together and gig together. But, while he's "cautiously optimistic" about this prospect, he also told me that, "for the past few months I've been having that 'long dark night of the soul' and am beginning to conclude that if I don't get a touring version of FTV together soon, it might be time to hang it up. If I'm not out there rubbing elbows and getting a buzz about the band going, this is beginning to feel uncomfortably like a vanity project whose resources ought to be poured into something more useful, like skyport windows or hardwood floors for the living room & dining room."
I understand how he feels. It's tough to be a musician playing this kind of music, with a small (if adoring) audience, and relatively few venues in which to play it. So I gave it my best try, telling him that playing this kind of music is a calling ... those of us bitten by "the prog bug" are forced to create this kind of music whether we want to or not. It's in our blood. We'll go mad if we don't. Yadda yadda yadda. His response was, "... food for thought. I guess the point I'm making is that the lack of pay-off (not so much money as bouncing these creations off an audience, or even playing the tunes as an ensemble) is putting a real damper on sitting in my studio writing these things. Initially, I was happy in the process of proving to myself that I could create tunes and see them thru from sketchy idea to finished product. After 9 CD's and the 4-5 future projects I've got going, I'm not impressing myself any more. Being a basement genius (well, relatively speaking ...) is for the birds."
Mike and I talked again (via e-mail) in the last few days, and he's said that he is working on FTV#10 (no other title yet) with Steve Katsikas of Little Atlas. He thinks it should be finished up by the end of 2007. However, he also says that this will probably be the last studio French TV album. If French TV continues, it will be as a live unit. Mike is writing charts for a set list of FTV songs so he "can then throw scores in front of some decent readers and say 'PLAY THIS!'"
In the meantime, Mike has been recording with a new band called Distinguished Panel of Experts, who should have their debut album ready very soon. This sounds exciting, see their entry for what I know about them at the moment. -- Fred Trafton
[See Distinguished Panel of Experts |
Little Atlas |
Click here for French TV's web site
No Pussyfooting (73, w/ Brian Eno)
Evening Star (75, w/ Brian Eno)
God Save the Queen/Under Heavy Manners (80)
Let the Power Fall (81)
The League of Gentlemen (81, w/ League of Gentlemen)
I Advance Masked (82, w/ Andy Summers)
Bewitched (84, w/ Andy Summers)
God Save the King (85, Compilation, re-issue of League of Gentlemen material)
Network (85, Compilation, EP)
Get Crafty I (88, Cassette only, w/ Guitar Craft)
Live II (90, Live, w/ Guitar Craft)
Kneeling At The Shrine (91, as Sunday All Over the World)
Show of Hands (91, w/ Guitar Craft)
The First Day (93, w/ David Sylvian)
The Bridge Between (93, w/ Trey Gunn & California Guitar Trio)
Damage (94, live '93 w/ David Sylvian)
FFWD>> (94, w/ Kris Weston, Thomas Fehlmann & D.A.R. Paterson)
1999: Soundscapes - Live in Argentina (94)
Intergalactic Boogie Express (95, Live, w/ Guitar Craft)
A Blessing of Tears: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 2 (95, Live)
That Which Passes: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 3 (96, Live)
Radiophonics: 1995 Soundscapes, Vol. 1 (96, Live)
November Suite: Live at Green Park Station (97, Live)
The Gates of Paradise (97, Limited Edition)
The Gates of Paradise (98)
The Repercussions of Angelic Behavior (99, w/ Bill Rieflin & Trey Gunn)
A Temple in the Clouds (00, w/ Jeffrey Fayman)
The Equatorial Stars (04, w/ Brian Eno)
Beyond Even (1992–2006) (07, w/ Brian Eno)
No Pussyfooting (08, w/ Brian Eno, 2CD remaster w/ slowed & reversed versions of the songs)
Apart from leading King Crimson for much of his musical career, Robert Fripp has released some great solo material. He has worked with countless other people like Debbie Harry, The Roaches, The Giles Brothers, Andy Summers, Toyah (his wife) and has contributed to a lot of albums as a "guest" (early Van Der Graaf Generator, Peter Hammill, David Bowie etc). Most notably, he has collaborated with Brian Eno to produce No Pussyfooting and Evening Star which are beautiful showcases for Eno's ambient tastes and Fripp's incredible "Frippertronic" guitarwork which involves long Revox tape loop delays and seemingly permanent sustain. Let the Power Fall is an album of Frippertronics and, IMO, is superb. It is meant for improvising guitar too and is a real challenge ... you can't just sit and play pentatonic scales over this!
Exposure was supposed to be a companion album to a Hall and Oats album and a Peter Gabriel album. It has Gabriel's "Here Comes the Flood" with Frippertronics wrapped round it and versions of tracks that appear on Hall and Oats' albums with different lyrics ... all very confusing. All in all though, Exposure is a great album ... very varied, intense and as a bonus, Peter Hammill sings on a couple of tracks.
The "League of Gentlemen" material is rather idiosyncrastic and involves peculiar timings, prominent bass and some lovely Fripp guitar work. Especially the "God Save the King" track which makes the hairs on my neck stand up when it fades into Frippertronics with Fripp improvising over it.
Recently, he collaborated with Toyah and Trey Gunn to release Sunday all over the World's Kneeling at the Shrine. Some great guitar on this. Also, he has released an album with David Sylvian called The First Day. Fripp is certainly one of the most original and pioneering of all guitarists ... he uses his own tuning (has done since the mid seventies), has set up his own guitar school and has avoided all of the nasty guitarist pretentions. You owe it to yourself to hear at least some of his material.
|The Bridge Between presents another project based exclusively on guitar work, as The Robert Fripp String Quartet. The quintet includes Fripp (guitars and Frippertronics), Trey Gunn (stick) and the California Guitar Trio (acoustic guitars). This lineup offers a certain variety of arrangements. Some tracks are acoustic (by J.S. Bach), some receive a more electric treatment, while others a based on Frippertronics. The selections offer a good sample of Fripp's recent projects with the Guitar Craft. A disc full of sonic explorations with guitars of different kinds. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|Robert Fripp surprises again with one of his numerous projects. The League of Crafty Guitarists is a peculiar ensemble formed by over a dozen guitarists (mostly acoustic). The short pieces of Show of Hands are in a style that goes back to J.S. Bach (counterpoint) but the execution is more typical of contemporary King Crimson. It features disciplined execution of melodic as well as rhythmic phrases. This innovative production, part of a concept that reaches beyond the music, offers a very rich sound. The arrangements are astonishing and push the use of guitars in new territories. -- Paul Charbonneau|
|Links||[See Belew, Adrian | Brudford, Bill | California Guitar Trio | Eno, Brian | Fripp and Eno | Gabriel, Peter | Giles, Giles and Fripp | King Crimson | Levin, Tony]|
No Pussyfooting (73)
Evening Star (75)
The Equatorial Stars (04)
Beyond Even (1992–2006) (07)
No Pussyfooting (08, 2CD remaster w/ slowed & reversed versions of the songs)
Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, circa 1973
Aside from the brief mention of Fripp and Eno in the Robert Fripp entry above, this important collaboration has gone unheralded in the GEPR. With the pair once again making music together, it's about time to remedy that situation.
I had, of course, heard some King Crimson back in the early '70's. Who, growing up in those days, hadn't heard "In the Court of the Crimson King"? But I had a friend who came back from his first year at U. T. Austin with an amazing collection of music, and he introduced me to a bunch of strange artists I'd never heard of. One of them was Eno, and I recorded reel-to-reel copies of Here Come the Warm Jets and Another Green World from this guy. I liked them a lot, and so he said, "You know who Fripp is?" When I said "Yes", he said, "You know that he and Eno did an album together called No Pussyfooting? It's a little more difficult than the Eno you've heard so far, you wanna hear it?" Of course I did.
I was amazed. I had never heard anything like it. This friend was also into studio recording, like me, and so it made complete sense to me when he explained how the "Frippertronics" worked. I would have never thought of using a long tape delay the way they did it on this album. "Difficult" it was, but completely fascinating. Long, repeating patterns of notes with screechy, harsh synthesizers burbling along with it, and languid guitar solos that built patterns of notes one pitch at a time through each repeat. These "melodies" slowly morphed from one sequence of tones to another as new notes were added each time through and old ones slowly decayed into silence or background noise since each repeat was slightly softer in volume than the last. This was something truly new and innovative, and not even remotely like anything I'd ever heard before. So I made a copy of this on reel-to-reel as well, and eventually bought the album when I figured out a way to order it (as today, it's not like I could buy this album in a record store!).
And when I figured it out, I saw that Fripp and Eno had a second album as well! The other one was called Morning Star, so I ordered it too. It turned out to be similar to No Pussyfooting as far as the Frippertronics, but this album was much less harsh, more beautiful and pastoral. I immediately liked it as well, and these two albums saw high rotation on my turntable in the mid to late '70's. (Actually, on my reel-to-reel ... in those days, I recorded all my albums and usually played them from tape in order to preserve the albums in a like-new state).
So, I recently discovered that Fripp and Eno, after more than 30 years, have once again decided to collaborate in some recordings. All I know about them is what I read in the following review. But, since F&E were among my favorites as I was beginning to learn about prog rock back in the '70's, I'll need to obtain copies and hear them. It will be interesting to hear what they have done recently. Until then, I'll always have No Pussyfooting. -- Fred Trafton
Almost 32 years ago, King Crimson lynchpin and guitar demon Robert Fripp visited glamour puss art rock strategist Brian Eno at his Maida Vale flat with the intention of playing around with a tape delay system of Eno's devising. Within an hour, the pair had recorded "The Heavenly Music Corporation", later released as the first side of the duo's No Pussyfooting album. While it's now one of those albums that's spoken about in hushed, reverential tones as a proto-ambient classic, it's worth remembering that Island Records weren't too keen on Eno's association with Fripp, fearing that the latter might lead the former into less commercial territory (huh?).
Since then their collaborations have been occasional, but always inspired. Eno's sonic awareness and unorthodox musical approaches have combined with Fripp's ability to cope with anything that's thrown his way to produce some of the best moments in either man's work (and David Bowie's as well).
So there's some expectation surrounding [The Equatorial Stars], despite the low-key nature of its release. Though it's not really a retread of former glories, immediately you're certain that this music couldn't have been made by anyone else as you get sucked into its weightless beauties.
Eno's settings range from the celestial shimmer of Apollo ("Lyra") to muted, distant machine funk ("Altair") or the darker textures of the closing "Terebellum", while Fripp's rhapsodic, mournful lines wander through them to crushingly beautiful effect.
There's no doubt that despite his rather cerebral reputation, Fripp's playing can carry a quietly devastating emotional charge. Daryl Hall's likened it to the sound of the universe crying; until NASA actually gets a recording of such a cosmic event we'll have to take his word for it, but you'll know what he means by the time the CD's over. The Equatorial Stars is one of the finest things Robert or Brian have done in years, and its austere, graceful beauty left me literally breathless at times. A marriage made in the heavens, indeed. -- Peter Marsh (originally published July 5, 2004)
The above work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. The original was obtained here.
|Links||[See Belew, Adrian | Brudford, Bill | California Guitar Trio | Eno, Brian | Fripp, Robert | Gabriel, Peter | Giles, Giles and Fripp | King Crimson | Levin, Tony]|
Guitar Solos (74)
Strings and Springs (78, w/ Hugh Davies)
With Friends Like These (79, w/ Henry Kaiser)
Live in Japan (82)
Cheap at Half the Price (83)
Live in Prague and Washington (83, w/ Chris Cutler)
French Gigs (83, w/ Lol Coxhill)
Who Needs Enemies? (83, w/ Henry Kaiser)
Nous Autres (87, w/ Rene Lussier)
With Enemies Like These, Who Needs Friends? (87, w/ Henry Kaiser, Compilation)
The Technology of Tears (88)
The Top of His Head (89, Soundtrack)
Live in Moscow, Prague and Washington (90, w/ Chris Cutler)
20000V Live (90, w/ Kazuyuki K. Null)
Step Across the Border (91)
Dropera (91, w/ Ferdinand Richard as Fred and Ferd)
Guitar Solos II (91)
Live Improvisations (92, w/ Tim Hodgkinson)
Helter Skelter (93, w/ Francois-Michel Pesenti)
Subsonic 1: Sounds of a Distant Episode (94, w/ Marc Ribot)
Middle of the Moment (95)
Eye to Ear (97)
Ayaya Moses (97, as Fred Frith Guitar Quartet)
Improvisations (97, w/ Jean-Pierre Drouet)
Reel (97, w/ Noel Akchote)
The Previous Evening (97)
Etymology (97, w/ Tom Cora)
Pazifica (98, compositions by Frith, he does not play on this recording)
Upbeat (99, as Fred Frith Guitar Quartet)
Friends and Enemies (99, w/ Henry Kaiser, Compilation)
Stone, Brick, Glass, Wood, Wire (99)
British multi-instrumentalist (guitars, violin, bass, keyboards, tapes, drums, samplers, etc.), and one of those rare musicians who is an adept songwriter and lyricist, and a stunningly original improvisor. Frith is at home playing the twisted pop of Cheap at Half the Price as he is in the avant-garde improvisational arena with cohorts such as Henry Kaiser (With Friends Like These, and Who Needs Enemies), Chris Cutler (Live in Prague...), and Rene Lussier (Nous Autres). He has also composed film scores (The Top of His Head) and music for modern dance (The Technology of Tears). In short, Fred Frith's recorded output is so varied and so unique that I cannot do it justice in a few paragraphs, but here goes nothing ...
Fred Frith was first known for his work with British RIO band Henry Cow. After the demise of this excellent group, he formed Art Bears with Henry Cow drummer Chris Cutler and vocalist Dagmar Krause. Musically, Frith's solo records have a tangential relationship to either of these well-known bands. Avant-garde free improvisation dominates several of Frith's solo records (e.g., Live in Prague and Washington and With Friends Like These), while others are odd, twangy, ethnic-sounding pop music (e.g., Cheap at Half the Price). I find both approaches very rewarding. To my ears, Gravity and Speechless are the most similar to Frith's earlier work with Henry Cow. On Side 1 of Gravity, Frith is backed by his "favorite dance band," Zamla Mammas Manna and on Side 2, the Muffins do the honors. Anyone who likes any of these bands will enjoy Gravity, even the screwy instrumental cover version of the old pop chestnut "Dancing in the Street." Speechless has Etron Fou Leloublan on Side 1, and Massacre (Frith's excellent avant-noise power trio with Bill Laswell and Fred Maher) on side 2, and seems a bit darker and noisier than Gravity. Again, if you enjoy either Etron Fou or Massacre, Speechless will deliver the goods. Unlike Gravity and Speechless, Cheap at Half the Price (Frith's final recording for the Ralph label) is essentially a pop record. Frith plays all instruments, and sings every track. The lyrics are very politically oriented, and in its own way, Cheap... is as uncompromising as everything else Frith recorded.
With Friends Like These and Who Needs Enemies are duet recordings with Henry Kaiser. The earlier With Friends... is quite a wild and wooly avant-garde improv affair, with both Frith and Kaiser playing mostly electric guitars. Although no less adventurous, Who Needs Enemies is a very lovely and melodic record, with Frith and Kaiser doubling on guitars, bass and drum machines. Frith also contributes some violin, and there are even two acoustic blues tracks. Nous Autres, a live duet recording with Quebecios guitarist Rene Lussier with guest shots by Chris Cutler and several vocalists, is very varied with some moments that recall Frith's earlier work (both Gravity and Speechless), some guitar noise sections, a track ("J'aime la Musique") that sounds like very warped disco with shouted lyrics, and some quiet pastoral sections. Technology of Tears is very rhythmic, with lots of samples, wordless vocals, horns, and odd percussion. Some of it reminds me of Gravity, but it's a pretty unusual record. The Top of His Head, a movie soundtrack, has a dark, but delicate, almost ethereal sound. Some of it sounds almost like chamber music, with prominent cello, guitar and violin, but there are some tracks with vocalist Jane Siberry that sound strangely poppish and conventional. All of Frith's recordings are great, but if I had to choose, I'd say that Who Needs Enemies, Speechless, and Gravity are my favorites. Fred Frith has recorded with several fine groups, including Massacre, Skeleton Crew (with cellist Tom Cora), Curlew, and John Zorn's Naked City. -- Dave Wayne
|Fred Frith, formerly of Henry Cow and the Art Bears, certainly rates as a cult figure. Best known as a guitarist, he also excels on bass, violin, and keyboards. His records range from tune-packed group excursions to fairly arid free improvisation. Gravity, recorded with members of the Muffins and Zamla Mammaz Manna, and Speechless, with members of Etron Fou Leloublan and Frith's power-noise trio Massacre, are both full of tunes, creative and odd but fairly accessible. (Commercial? Certainly less abrasive than Naked City, but I think the typical pop or rock fan would consider them pretty strange.) Cheap at Half the Price has Frith's response to punk - a low-tech, straightforward approach to writing and singing songs. Unfortunately, Frith's singing and lyric-writing are not terribly impressive. (The two records by his group Skeleton Crew are from this same period and have a similar approach.) Guitar Solos and Live in Prague and Washington are examples of his free improvisation - very good, but be warned - there are no tunes on these records. Step Across the Border is a good introduction to Frith - it's the soundtrack to a film about him and includes examples of a variety of his approaches, from solo improvisations to compositions played with different groups. -- Dan Kurdilla|
|Frith started as guitar and violin player in the British RIO band Henry Cow. After their split in 78 he played with Chris Cutler and Dagmar Krause in The Art Bears, another classic of the British experimental rock scene. In the early eighties, after playing with the Belgian Aqsak Maboul, he recorded 3 solo LPs (Gravity, Speechless and Cheap at Half the Price), on which he is accompanied by former Henry Cow and Aqsak Maboul members, the Swedish band Zamla, Etron Fou Leloublan and the Muffins. The music on these three is similar to Henry Cow or Art Bears stuff, more or less complicated RIO-rock with some experimental moments (tapes and samples, prepared guitar) and mainly dominated by Friths guitar playing. While staying in the USA he not only played with the aforementioned Muffins, but also with Bill Laswell in the band Massacre and he met the cello player Tom Cora. With him he founded in 1984 Skeleton Crew and recorded two LPs. Technology of Tears is quite complicated stuff, Frith playing all instruments except J. Zorn on sax and a weird Japanese vocalist. A good introduction to Frith is Step Across the Border, a film soundtrack with recordings from 80-90, thus a compilation of his work in the 8ties. Dropera features Ferdinand Richard from Etron Fou, and is similar to Richards solo works. Helter Skelter is an opera, with many instrumentalists and singers, very experimental and very hard to listen to. With Quartets Frith entered modern classical music. Here you find two quartets, one for strings and one for electric guitars (here he is joined by Nick Didkovsky from Doctor Nerve, Rene Lussier and Mark Howell). Allies is very quiet Chamber rock, with John Cartwright from Curlew, Tom Cora and Joe Byron (from Bill Frisells band), very nice but strange, a bit like his early 8ties stuff. The Top of his Head and Eye to Ear feature various pieces written as soundtracks. Pazifica is a huge ensemble work. With this one Frith definitely entered the contemporary classical music world. Gravity, Speechless and Cheap at Half the Price are definitely classics of RIO and can safely be recommended! -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Aksak Maboul | Art Bears | Etron Fou Leloublan | Henry Cow | Massacre [USA] | Residents, The | Richard, Ferdinand | Samla Mammas Manna | Skeleton Crew | Zorn, John]|
Behind the Walls of Imagination (97)
Space Music (98)
Atmosphere - Electronic Suite (03)
Past and Future Sounds 1996-2006 (06)
Eloy Fritsch surrounded by his Apocalypse stage setup
Eloy Fritsch is the keyboardist for the Brazilian prog band Apocalypse and also has quite a few solo recordings of keyboard-oriented music. I've been meaning to upgrade this entry for quite a while now, but only now have finally gotten around to it. Fritsch has been a very patient man waiting for me to update his entry (or, more likely, he's just given up on me). Fritsch sent me a copy of Mythology a few years back, along with a sampler CD of his favorite music from several releases. Since then, I got copies of Atmosphere Electronic Suite and his latest release, Past and Future Sounds from Musea, so I'll talk about each one separately.
Mythology is an electronic suite of songs about mythological places ("Asgard", "Atlantis"), gods and goddesses ("Aphrodite", "Shiva", "Isis") and symbols ("Yang & Yin", "Excalibur") from around the world. Many cultures are represented, including a few even I've never heard of (I'm guessing "Kinich-Ahau" is Hawaiian and I have no idea who or what "Curupira" is). Musically, the closest referent is probably Heaven and Hell-era Vangelis, in fact there are some tracks ("Aphrodite" in particular) that wouldn't sound out of place in an alternative soundtrack for Blade Runner. But there are also parts that remind me of Synergy or even the least dark ethnicities of Peter Frohmader plus a few Emersonian synth solos too. A very pleasant electro-romp through Fritch's mythological mind. No dark, noisy weirdness here, all very pompous, epic and melodic electro-prog. Highly recommendable for those (like me) who like this sort of thing. The lack of "real" drums may put off some sympho-prog purists, but in my view it's entirely appropriate for an album of this sort. If you want to hear Fritch in that context, check out some Apocalypse albums instead.
Atmosphere Electronic Suite is in a similar vein, with some definite Vangelis-like leanings, but also some Tomita-like sonorities. Because of the subject, the sound palette is full of airy, breathy textures, harps, swooshy sibilances and "wet" sounding accent sounds. Some hints of Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygene show up from time to time too, but less minor-key. And Fritch does like those Wakemanesque synth trills in the solos. Quite a nice electronic album, easily recommendable. Oh, there's also three hidden bonus tracks at the end of the album that aren't listed on the song list. Don't pop the CD out of the player too soon!
Past and Future Sounds is Fritch's latest CD as of this writing. It's probably more past than future ... which suits me just fine. Though there's nothing startlingly original in these sounds, he has used some of the best features of some familiar friends to create a very enjoyable album. It reminds me of Vangelis for the synthesized brass and "Cosmos" swoops, Larry "Synergy" Fast for polyphonic synth chords and shimmering arpeggios, Roger Powell for non-drum-like synthesized percussion, and for the tribal drums and "wood flutes" ... maybe Michael Stearns. These are all some of my favorite electronic/keyboard artists, so don't be too surprised that I really liked this album. Nice stuff.
Finally, a few words about the compilation CD Fritch made for me. Overall, the influences are similar to what I've already mentioned above, though there are some cuts (I don't know which albums they came from ... there was no track list accompanying the CDR) that have a less "electro" and a more "symphonic prog" sound, so I assume these come from an album I haven't heard yet. Also, there are several solos that could be right off of a Rick Wakeman album, so Fritch is also adept at that sort of soloing. Overall, I must say I haven't heard anything I don't like, so I would think it's hard to go wrong with one of Fritch's solo albums. -- Fred Trafton
[See Apocalypse (Brazil)]
Click here for Eloy Fritsch's web site
Epsilon in Malaysian Pale (74, sometimes Ypsilon in Malaysian Pale)
Macula Transfer (75)
Solo 1974-1979 (82, Compilation)
Kamikaze 1999 (82)
Beyond the Storm (95, Compilation)
Introduction to the Ambient Highway (03, Compilation)
Ambient Highway Vol. 1 (03, Compilation)
Ambient Highway Vol. 2 (03, Compilation)
Ambient Highway Vol. 3 (03, Compilation)
Ambient Highway Vol. 4 (03, Compilation)
Orange Light Years (05, 2CD)
Edgar Froese (1980)
Aqua is a lot of electronic noodling. Epsilon in Malaysian Pale is the most Tangerine Dream-like and fits right in with Phaedra and Rubycon. Recommended: Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, Pinnacles.
Long the mainstay of Tangerine Dream, Froese has released several solo albums in addition to his work with T-Dream. I've heard Epsilon in Malaysian Pale which is a beautiful title. The music isn't too bad either though long-time fans of T-Dream will find no surprises. Two 17 minute tracks of flowing sequencers and moog. Most similar to Phaedra, Rubycon or Ricochet.
I'll admit it ... I'm entirely biased. The first "electronic prog" album I ever bought was Tangerine Dream's Rubycon, and I was stunned at the album ... I had never heard anything like it, and I played it to death. There was almost noplace to buy albums like this where I grew up (it was a fluke that Rubycon happened to be available at a head shop where I was ... uhm ... shopping back in '75. Really, I was shopping for albums. I recall that I also picked up Basil Kirchin's relentlessly strange Worlds Within Worlds Part 2 on the same trip). But then my family went on a vacation trip to California, and in a small record shop in Laguna Beach, I found Phaedra and Froese's Aqua (along with Gong's You). Though that pretty much blew my life savings at the time from my part-time job, I also actually bought a styrofoam ice chest so that I could get them back home in the midsummer heat without warping. I thought that Phaedra and Aqua were quite similar, and though I don't like either of them quite as much as Rubycon, they certainly are both in the same league. Nothing against Epsilon in Malaysian Pale, you understand, that's also a superb album. But I never would have bought it if I hadn't already been totally enamored of Aqua. Dismissing Aqua as "a lot of electronic noodling" is really unfair. In my book, at least. But then I told you I'm entirely biased. -- Fred Trafton
[See Tangerine Dream]
Click here for Edgar Froese' web site
Frogg Café (01, CDR)
Noodles (02, Live in the studio)
Frogg Café Remastered (04, Remastered version of 2001 release w/ bonus track)
The Fortunate Observer of Time (05)
The core musicians of Frogg Café (2004) - (not in photo order) Nick Lieto (vocals, keyboards),
Frank Camiola (guitars, tenor banjo, string bass, add'l keyboards), Bill Ayasse (electric and
acoustic violin, viola, mandolins, background vocals, percussion), Andrew Sussman (bass) and
James Guarnieri (drums, percussion). Additional musicians (on Creatures) include Sharon
Ayasse (flute), Steve Campanella (marimba), Christopher Tunney (clarinet), Dee Harris (sarod),
Tim Roache (Toro electric weedwhacker upon a celestial metal can, various blocks of wood),
Marjorie Ayasse (background vocals and voices), and Dr. Mac & Brother Bam (voices).
Anyone who's opened the pages of a Progression or Exposé magazine or been in attendence at NEARfest (or, I assume, other east-coast prog fests) will be familiar with the name Frogg Café. They have a notable presence in these places, promoting (or dare I say "hyping") the band. This much self-promotion makes me suspicious of a band. If you have the same suspicious nature, let me put those suspicions to rest; despite the cute frogs playing instruments on toadstools (yucch!), Frogg Café is an excellent and serious prog band, worthy of investinagtion by anyone who thinks an innovative blend of Zappa jazz, Mahavishnu violin and a smattering of Univers Zero modern classical played with the mellower sensibilities of Romislokus with some Chicago-style (the band, not the city) brass choirs sounds like something that might be worth hearing. Some of the guitar solos lead me to believe that guitarist Frank Camiola has heard some Carlos Santana in his life as well as Gentle Giantish counterpoint. Add to this interesting social/spiritual commentary in the lyrics and you have a truly inspiring combination.
The first album, Frogg Café is marred only by less than pristine recording quality (even in the 2004 remastered version), most noticable in a muddy drum mix. Other than this minor problem (which should not keep anyone from enjoying his album but the most rabid of audiophiles), this is an album of complex yet strangely accessible songs, with just enough dissonances to sound modern, yet resolving to easier-listening concordances in other parts. In spite of the many other influences you'll hear in their music, it's the Zappa homages that are the most prevalent; in fact, "Questions Without Answers" credits one of its themes ("Inca Roads") to Mr. Z. My description of styles in the preceeding paragraph are related to this first album.
Frogg Café's second album, Creatures, moves their personal bar up a few notches with even more variation, more "progginess" at the expense of "jazziness", a better recording (in spite of being recorded in a small studio "while Mingus wasn't barking and the furnace was off"). The opening cut "All This Time" is more rock and more prog than anything on Frogg Café, a spooky Mellotron-laden piece with excellent vocals by composer/keyboardist Nick Lieto. The guitars, bass and guitar get almost heavy-metal. The second song "Creatures" lightens up to more Zappa-like (or, oddly, Echolyn-like), but also with some more traditional jazz comping on the piano and in the bass line in the verse section. "The Celestial Metal Can" is a great concatenation of spacey noises "in Memory of [classical composer] Charles Ives" which does eventually have a bit of improvised musical and rhythmic content plus echoed moans, cries and muttered demonic choirs guaranteed to frighten religious grandmothers and Brittney Spears fans everywhere. Great stuff! "Gagutz" puts us back into jazz territory again ... funky keyboards and a percolating bass line serve as a backdrop for electric violin, trumpet and guitar soloing with the occasional intrusion of a woodwind quartet or Mellotron space-out for a few bars before re-embarking on the jazzy excursions. Mellow and cool with just enough "progginess".
The final 21-minute "side-long" epic "Waterfall Carnival" starts with a folky acoustic guitar and vocal introduction which is then augmented by flute and mandolin. The piece has acoustic guitar as its backbone much of the time, but takes off on Camelesque or sometimes Yes-ish melodic prog sections with the full band playing sweeping, epic chords and perky counterpoints with more Zappa gnat notes. Difficult to describe due to its diversity, but an excellent piece for listening, and ranking right up there with the best that any other prog band has ever offered us. This is easily my favorite Frogg Café piece to date.
Frogg Café's third, The Fortunate Observer of Time appears to have something of a concept to go with it, but I'll admit I don't quite grasp it. Musically perhaps a bit more accessible than Creatures, it still has a lot of Zappa feel, but it's Zappa at his most cleaned-up and undemanding. I'm again reminded of Romislokus' "easy listening" tendencies. Perhaps not as exciting as Creatures, but probably more professional and musical. Though I can still recommend this album easily enough, I must admit that I hope they go in a weirder direction next time out.
My favorite cut on this album is the almost 15-minute closer, "Abyss of Dissension". Complete with horns and vibes, this brings to mind Zappa's The Grand Wazoo, but also has some of the Echolyn-like vocal harmonies. A bit more of an avant feel here is definitely to my liking, which makes this the most memorable song for my tastes. More in this direction, please!
In conclusion, if you aren't yet familiar with these guys (and ladies!), you owe it to yourself to give them a try. The first couple of albums are excellent music for a band who seemed determined to press on despite all odds and create music from their hearts ... damn the torpedos and popularity with the general public. The third album seems to be trying for a higher level of popularity, and may indeed achieve that goal. I still recommend Creatures as their best effort so far, but all three albums are good. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Frogg Café's web site
Click here to order Frogg Café albums from 10t Records
From The Pond (73)
US Prog, Private Pressing.
Nekropolis (81, 4LP?)
Nekropolis 2 (82)
Two Compositions (83)
Nekropolis Live (83, Live)
Musik für Dich (84)
The Forgotten Enemy (85)
Jules Verne Cycle (86)
Homunculus Vol. 1 (87)
Homunculus Vol. 2 (87)
Through Time & Mystery-Ending (88)
Arcana Coelestia (89)
3rd Millenium's Choice Vol. 1 (90)
3rd Millenium's Choice Vol. 2 (91)
Attenti Al Treno! (92, w/ G. Schedel & A. Merz)
Advanced Alechemy of Music (94)
Cycle of Eternity (94)
The Awakening - Nekropolis Live 1979 (97, Live, Rec. 1979)
Fossil Culture (99 w/ Richard Pinhas)
Space Icon (00 w/ Artemiy Artemiev)
Kanaan Live 1975 (00, Live, Rec. 1975)
Das Ist Alles (00, as F&F (Frohmader/Fuchs-Gamböck))
Anubis Dance (03, Rec. 1997)
Armorica, the ancient name for Brittany, was once occupied by the Celts and still contains many burial mounds, dolmens, and menhirs. The music on Armorika is Peter's musical impression of this region. The enclosed beautiful black and white photographs of Brittany taken by Peter and his artist friend Liselotte Siegert complement the music. Peter never ceases to surprise the listener, even on this CD, his 15th album. Each new release is an improvement over the last. Armorika builds on and goes way beyond what Peter explored on Macrocosm and 3rd Millennium's Choice. Gone is Peter's digital orchestra. Instead he returns to the bass, electronics, acoustic instruments, sampled nature sounds, and a judicious use of silence to build the tension. There is a constant shift of moods across the 11 tracks and yet the music is unmistakenly Frohmader. Beautiful bucolic and folksy passages are followed by heavy ritualistic sequences similar to Zoviet France. At other times jazz fusion leads to "cabaret" music. And as always, there is Frohmader's diabolical signature as in Tumulus, Les Roches du Diable, Dolmen, and Aberwrac'h. Truly another excellent album from a long list of triumphs. Play this CD, turn out the lights, and experience Brittany through the mind of Herr Frohmader.
|Peter Frohmader burst onto the electronic music scene in the mid-'80s with his release of Nekropolis. Though I haven't heard it, the album is supposed to be a stunning work of dark texture and haunting atmosphere. In constrast, Nekropolis 2 was a work almost entirely for basses, with Frohmader playing fretted 6- & 8-string and fretless basses, among others. Since that time, Frohmader has apparently been at the cutting edge of the electronic/avant- garde scene in Germany and the rest of Europe. Though Frohmader has nearly 20 albums to his credit, Macrocosm, from 1990, was his first American release. Cycle of Eternity, an album of digital keyboards and sequencers, is number two. Opening with "Spiral" and sustained chords, I thought I'd be using lots of words like "cosmic dust" and "celestial traveller." Then came some rather stiff and too-regular sequenced arpeggios. I thought this would turn into a very boring album if this kept up. Fortunately, neither case is true. In the case of "Spiral," the repeated arpeggio does drag a bit as it appears and disappears during the course of 12 minutes, but the urgent melody of this "Spiral" displays another characteristic of this album. Frohmader has a way of coming down either just in front of or just behind the beat, thereby creating a great deal of tension. In some cases, it's exaggerated to the point that it almost sounds like a kid at his lessons who pauses long enough to glance at the music and falls off the beat a bit, then rushes to try and catch up. Frohmader, however, is no piano student, as he is in full command of his music. His tempo shifts are often abrubt without being drastic, shifting up a few pulses per minute, then dropping back on the next measure, creating an ebb and flow to each song that carries you farther out to sea like a slow current rather than a rip tide. Before you know it, you're swimming with sharks. When I heard the 11+ minute "Hypnosis," I was reminded of something I had heard before. I knew it wasn't Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, or Steve Roach. Frohmader's style is quite distinct from what I've heard by those two Berlin artists, or the American artist who has expanded the field pioneered by the Germans. After repeated listenings, it finally came to me (and I gave you a clue a moment ago). The subtle keyboard interplay reminded me a bit of some of the things A Triggering Myth were doing on "Myths" from Twice Bitten. They don't really sound similar but the darkish, angular rhythms on "Myths" can also be heard on many of the songs on Cycle of Eternity. Rather than providing a relaxing ride (ala Schulze's Timewind), Frohmader's album is very active electronic music that can prove to be a challenging listen. Surely this goes against the conception of electronic music held by most people unfamiliar with the genre (including me!). When I heard the opening two songs for the first time, I thought this album would be one to dismiss. After playing it non-stop for two days, Frohmader's music had me quite drawn in. I became much more interested in exploring the variety of electronic music that has been created in years past and still is today. Ultimately, that's a good thing. An interesting side note: Frohmader is also quite an artist. His painting style (and the pictures his music creates) is comparable to H.R. Giger. In fact, Frohmader is apparently good friends with Giger. Frohmader's has created music expressly for some of Giger's movies. Giger has reciprocated by providing covers for some of Frohmader's albums. Two of Frohmader's paintings grace the the insert for this release. The cover of (I think) Nekropolis 2 is stunning. I'm not sure if it's from that album, but the art is displayed in black and white on the back cover of Audion #3 (January, 1987). It must be incredible in color. Anyway, Giger fans have another reason for checking out Frohmader's work. In the meantime, Cycle of Eternity would be a great starting point. -- Mike Taylor|
I had heard of Peter Frohmader for years, being a fan of electronic music, but had
not heard any until recently, when I was able to get ahold of his two latest
releases, Eismeer and Anubis Dance. In spite of all the rumors I've
heard of his music being "dark" and "disturbing", I didn't find it to be like that
at all. Regardless of Frohmader's chilling pseudonym ("Nekropolis"="City of the
Dead"), I found Eismeer in particular to be quite uplifting and inspiring. It
is, however, pretty wierd for those not versed in academic electronic music.
Eismeer is both the album name and the first cut on the album. Clocking in at 37:10, it is subtitled "Symphonic Poem", an appropriate description. It combines modern classical elements (though those oboes, bassoons and pianos are doubtless all electronic) with classical electronic music (see Electronic Music Pioneers) and sound effects (rain, wind and thunder) to create frozen landscapes of icy beauty. Slow and evolving, with both harmonious and dissonant parts, no classical musician could possibly chalk this up as some guy noodling on synthesizers ... this is serious, academic composition applied to electronic sound sources. Wonderful stuff! The other two cuts on the album continue in a similar vein ... this music could have been composed and recorded in the 70's from the sound of it. I'm glad someone is still experimenting in this realm of music.
Anubis Dance, then, caught me by surprise. Very different in texture from Eismeer, with lots of thumping drum sequences, my first impression of this album was that it was just another Techno dance album for dancing 'til you drop at a rave. But my experience with Eismeer made me listen a bit more carefully ... the drum sequences may make you think of Techno dance music, and may even make parts of the album dancable ... a "dance remix" version of the album would certainly be a simple matter. But this is, indeed, dance music for Anubis (Egyptian God of Death), not for young coked-up ravers. The drums have a lot of middle eastern dance feel, with doumbeks co-habitating with standard kit drums, and the musical instruments (or synthesizer patches, as you wish) and chanting vocal stylings are all decidedly middle-eastern sounding, as are the melodic motifs being used. There's also a lot of strange synthesizer effects that have been pressed into service as percussion instruments, making this more interesting than your usual House Music. Sometimes the musical part of a song seems to progress independently of the drums for awhile, only to sync up again later in the song. Anubis Dance is far more "accessible" than Eismeer, but still with a lot of interest for the prog or electronic music fan.
The vast difference between these two albums, coupled with the descriptions of some of Frohmader's previous albums, leads me to believe that Frohmader is not a composer to be pidgeonholed, but one who changes and evolves and tries new things with each album. Still, I would like to hear more from Frohmader along the lines of Eismeer, and I would hope he doesn't go the way of many modern electronic artists and start creating exclusively dance music. But I doubt that will be a problem. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for
Peter Frohmader's web site
Click here to order Peter Fromader titles from Musea Records
Click here for a review/interview on the Aural Innovations web site
At the Apex of High (72, Private pressing)
Startlingly heavy progressive group, sounding more like a modern group such as
Absolute Zero than one from '72. Most likely the
album was a one-off project, as the boys recorded and released it themselves while
in college in England. The group consisted of just two people: Charles "the Zilch"
Ostman (Guitars, Clarinets, Bass, Vocals, electronics) and
Stewart Copeland (Drums, additional percussion).
Charles Ostman wrote all of the songs and is the only performer on 3 of the album's
7 tracks. Anyone know what happened to him? Stewart
of course went on to Curved Air, the Police, Animal
Logic, and a fruitful solo career. His performance here is similar to his work on
Curved Air's Midnight Wire, but less restrained.
The sound on this album is different, frequently comparable to Absolute Zero or the Jimi Hendrix Experience, but generally it is their own. Very Eastern sounding, and pretty complex despite being very nearly a one-man show. The vocal sections are often interspersed with long dreamy, clarinet-laden instrumental passages. No, I kid you not: the clarinet is one of the most prominent instruments on this album, second only to the guitar. The vocals are soft, USA-accented, and subtly emotional - in fact they sound a lot like Stewart Copeland's, for those of you who have heard his vocals. Fuzz, Acid, and Flowers describes the album as being tedious, but in fact much of the album is quite exciting, and really the "tedious" parts are the most interesting. Still, this is a record which requires diligent listening, and if you're not willing to give that you should stay away because this record will bore you.
The album opens with the 12-minute "Oracle of Delphi". It starts with an apocalyptic outburst: a harrowing bass line leading the way for a serious of vicious assaults on percussion and guitar. This gives way to post-apocalyptic, eerily quiet meanderings on guitar and clarinet, with soft-spoken vocal passages. All in all, a fascinating epic. "Idiomatic Interlude" is actually a pretty well-developed instrumental with odd rhythms and quirky clarinet playing, very soulful in fact. "Cyclation" rounds out side A, starting on another haunting and dreamy instrumental passage before the more traditional song form steps forward, with Charles and Stewart delivering a Hendrix Experience-styled powerhouse performance.
Side B of Apex is less impressive than A but still very good. "Zonation of Galactic Cosmodial Entities" is an effect-oriented but imaginative instrumental, while "Back Up!" is a soft of electric folk tune with the usual gracings of clarinet and decidedly weird lyrical subject matter (getting drugged, kidnapped, and hurled into a time warp). "Quest" is perhaps the most enjoyable tune on the album, opening with a guitar solo done to such high tones that it sounds like weeping. A somewhat symphonic and very emotional song. The wittily titled "7th Shakra" is a 10-minute instrumental, starting with a sinister verse/chorus before Charles Ostman abandons form and goes completely loopy on guitar and clarinet. Very introspective stuff. The one minus is that Charles throws too many solos on top of the verse/chorus.
I really have to rate At the Apex of High as one of the most interesting albums I've ever heard, despite the weak sound quality. It's clear the album had to be recorded on home equipment, with Charles singing very softly so as not to drown out the other instruments. Aside from that, I think the demo quality sound is in fact quite appropriate. This is heavily experimental stuff, and anyone who likes bizarre excursions should check it out: guitar freak-outs, mesmerizing clarinet, percussion romping, timorous bass, disturbingly odd lyrics -- Frolk Haven's sole album has it all, and all of it with clear plan and purpose at that. The only drawback is its rarity, so my first move would be to pester all the record companies to get this thing re-released; it's a classic! -- Robert Orme
|Links||[See Copeland, Stewart | Curved Air ]|
|Lush symphonic progressive. One of the best Japanese?|
Fromage first started churning way back in the late-1970s with a line-up that featured two
would-be important names of Japanese prog, guitarist Ikkou Nakajima
(Pageant, Ie Rai Shan) and,
briefly, Toshio Egawa (Novela,
However, by the time they recorded Ondine (Belle Antique 9458) both were long gone
and the band's music was clearly entrenched in the kind of simplified, vocal-heavy symphonic
rock that largely parallels the British neo-progressive movement at the time. Whereas
Pageant induced even their more straight-forward moments with
timbral and emotional richness that struck an enjoyable balance between the old and the new,
Fromage dive straight into some of the tackiest 1980s pop ideas around, as in the
marshmallowy "Inspiration Philology" or the Abacabian plod "Color Vision Night",
whose chorus raises the cringe factor to unacceptable heights. Other songs are more inclined
to just rehash better ideas of the previous decade rather than embrace the worst of their
own, but the sound policy still favours the rather bland and plastic tones of its time, and
the voice of vocalist/flautist Manabu Higashizawa, while quite remarkable in that it pretty
convincingly changes gender with register, is also irritatingly reedy and nasal, and makes
some of the overwrought emotional load sound simply pathetic.
Yet all of a sudden the band can swing the music into a seventh-heavy soft fusion territory, with jazzy piano and brushy drumming, or stretch out with instrumental work on guitar, synthesizer and flute, which, while not anything groundbreaking, shows technical and stylistic range that belies the more pedestrian aspects of the writing and production. This culminates in the album's finest hour, the 17-minute "Tsuki - Ni - Hoeru", which flows through empty-nightclub atmospherics, glittering, spacey solos and strands of fragile, Genesisoid acoustic guitar with emotional impact and timbral richness that reminds of Taï Phong's warm reveries. This kind of unevenness is shown all the more jarringly by the bonus track "Kishibe No Nai Umi", a 1981 demo recording whose good melodic and solo ideas are weighed down by some tacky, ping-ponging echo and synth effects and sound quality that suggests the recording was made in the studio's toilet.
By Ophelia (Belle Antique 9459) three out of five band members had been replaced, but the music had not changed much of all. There is slightly more emphasis on symphonic keyboard textures, but unfortunately FM synthesis and unremarkable electronic tom sounds have also made their beachhead in the sound tapestry. Some of the melody lines on synths and flute are elegant (e.g. "Thoma"), but Higashizawa's voice is far too eager to rise above pain threshold, reducing romantic outpourings to awkward melodrama. Once again, the best moments are the exquisiteacoustic guitar and synth parts on the lengthy title track and the vigorous playing on the colourful instrumental "Dual Fighter", the worst the whole "Naked Lady", with a beat and glitzy synth string fills right out of the lurid world of mirror balls and lurex. The sound quality of the two live bonus tracks from 1993 is wretched, but one of them, "Seruroido No Sora", makes for an interesting historical novelty item, as it is the same song Pageant recorded for La Mosaïque De La Rêverie as "Un Ciel De Celluloïde" (the only track where Nakajima made the mistake of handling the lead vocals himself). This version is pretty similar and actually pretty good, apart from the recording quality.
It should be clear by now that I don't consider either of these albums among the best of Japanese prog. Both have some good moments, but there are many much more interesting Japanese releases to try before braving the taste of Fromage. The band themselves didn't last beyond 1993, but out of the mouldy remnants some new musical life developed in the form of the band Cinema. -- Kai Karmanheimo
[See Cinema |
Ie Rai Shan) |
Click here for a
Fromage page at Cinema's web site
Playing the Imitation (05, Live, DVD)
Audio Diplomacy (07, Live DVD & CD set, international release of Playing the Imitation)
Seventh Story (10)
Fromuz (Audio Diplomacy line-up) - Vitaly Popeloff (guitars), Albert Khalmurzayev
(keyboards), Vladimir Badirov (drums) and Andrew Mara-Novik (bass)
Original entry, 10/21/05:
Yes, The Fromuz is short for "From Uzbekistan", with "The" added in front to distinguish them from an Uzbekistan company with this name. The concert was recorded in a small theater in the capitol city of Tashkent. In spite of what Progressor (also from Uzbekistan) says on the subject of this band (Vitaly Menshikov was one of the audience of 300 at which this concert was recorded), I'm not much reminded of any of the standard "prog" bands at all when I listen to this. I'm far more frequently reminded of fusion bands, especially Weather Report and to a lesser extent Brand X, but much more powerful. I've heard them compared to Liquid Tension Experiment, which is not a bad comparison at all. There are shredding guitar parts that remind of prog metal bands such as Dream Theater and heavy keyboard-oriented progressive sections like Planet X. The Fromuz are every bit as good as any of them.
Every band member is a monster on his instrument, from X Religion's Albert Khalmurzayev on keyboards to Vladimir Badirov on drums to Vitaly Popeloff on guitars and Andrew Mara-Novik on bass. In a way, this is a sort of "Uzbekistan Progressive Supergroup" because these guys are all famous in progressive rock circles from their former work with other bands there. The DVD version provides ample opportunity to see their intensity and professionalism as they wend their way through their own particular brand of complex, powerful, jazzy progressive music. The quality of the video and the audio on this DVD is second to none, and is an extremely enjoyable audio and visual experience. Now if I could just figure out how to re-burn it as a Region 1 DVD so I can watch it on my TV instead of my computer ... (BTW, the final version of this DVD is supposed to be playable on Region 1 DVD players. I got an early copy, which was made to play in Uzbekistan. So don't let this put you off.)
Not a single bad thing to say about this release. The only problem is, you can't really order it at the moment. However, that may change very soon, as a major American and international record distributor has expressed interest in making their CD and DVD available. Check back with the GEPR for further information, which I'll give you as soon as I've been given clearance. In the meantime, you can get some previews on the web site below. -- Fred Trafton
Furthermore, they've signed to 10T Records and released Playing the Imitation (thankfully now renamed Audio Diplomacy) as a DVD/CD set, with the same concert in both formats. They also played at Baja Prog 2007 where they were very well received.
Finally, Vitaly Popeloff has recorded some tracks for 10T labelmates Man on Fire's next album. -- Fred Trafton
From.uz (2010) - Albert Khalmurzayev (keyboards), Sur'at Kasimov (bass), Vitaly Popeloff (guitars), Ali Ismailov (percussion), Igor Elizov (grand piano & keyboards)
With the release of their latest album Seventh Story, the band has again changed their name to From.uz. This is a bit of an "in-joke" because .uz is the domain name extension for web sites in the country of Uzbekistan, just as .uk is the extension for Great Britain.
I haven't yet heard their new release, but I've heard some clips, and it's again prog fusion at its finest, but even more keyboard-oriented than before with two keymen in the band. I'll say more if and when I can lay my hands on this album. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Badirov, Vladimir | Man on Fire | X Religion]|
Frost* Tour EP (08, EP, only available on tour)
Experiments in Mass Appeal (08)
FrostFest Live CD (09, previously available on Frost*'s official homepage)
The Philadelphia Experiment (10, 2CD+DVD, available on Frost*'s official homepage)
Frost* - 2008 line-up - Declan Burke (acoustic guitar), John Mitchell (guitars, vocals), Jem Godfrey (vocals, keyboards),
Andy Edwards (drums), John Jowitt (bass)
Frost* is a Neo-Prog supergroup, formed in 2004 by musician / songwriter / producer Jem Godfrey, formerly of the prog-pop band Freefall. He recruited vocalist John Mitchell (Arena, Kino, etc., and current guitarist/vocalist for It Bites), bassist John Jowitt (Arena, arK, IQ, Jadis), drummer Andy Edwards (IQ) and guitarist John Boyes (Godfrey's former bandmate in Freefall). Together, they recorded and released the highly acclaimed Milliontown, released in 2006. After a brief tour in support of this album, this line-up of Frost* disbanded.
In 2008, Godfrey re-united the band for a second album, this time recruiting Declan Burke of Darwin's Radio as an addditional guitarist. Together they recorded and released Experiments in Mass Appeal. They subsequently performed at RoSFest in 2009, with Spock's Beard drummer Nick D'Virgilio replacing Edwards, who retired from the band due to duties as a college lecturer. In 2009, John Jowitt announced that he would leave the band, and Level 42 / It Bites bassist Nathan King covered bass duties for gigs they played in support of Dream Theater.
Frost* remains active, in a limited way, having recently released a 2CD+DVD set The Philadelphia Experiment which captures their RoSFest performance. This album also includes a bonus studio track "The Dividing Lone", which was recorded with current and former Frost* members and several guest artists.
|Links||[See Arena | arK | Big Big Train | Burke, Declan | D'Virgilio, Nick | Darwin's Radio | Freefall | IQ | It Bites | Jadis | Spock's Beard | Tinyfish]|
Fool Tapes (92)
How To Make It (94)
Room For Surprises (96)
One More Slice (97)
Power Structure (98)
A Battle A Day (01)
|Excellent neo-prog made of direct and easy melodies. -- Ricardo Deidda|
|I had How To Make It and got rid of it. Prog with Mellotron and cello. It has all the ingredients to make it a new fabulous Änglagård but ... the music just never takes off!!! I just don't understand. The musicians sound as if their hands can't move!! Can I say the word "constipated"? -- Jean-François Cousin|
|Fruitcake's style... well you like it or not. It's not worthy of the name "progressive" but it's sympho nonetheless. I think that the band of Pal Sovik will sound the same for the next twenty years. The CD's all sound the same. But then again, that's the charm of Fruitcake ... -- Markwin|
Click here for
Fruitcake's web site
All Will Be Changed (70)
Frumpy 2 (71)
By The Way (72)
Live (72, 2LP, re-issued as double CD in 1995)
|I heard the two tracks they did at the Hamburg '70 festival, both from their debut, All Will Be Changed. Fronted by ex-City Preachers / I.D. Company female vocalist Inga Rumpf, whose voice is creepily androgynous. The reason to listen, however, is for Belgian keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz, whose wild, reckless organ playing rivals Keith Emerson's. -- Mike Ohman|
|Founded by drummer Carsten Bohn, singer Inga Rumpf, keyboarder Jean-Jacques Kravetz and guitarist Karl-Heinz Schott. In 1970, Frumpy started a succesful tour in France. The same year they went on a 50 concert tour with Spooky Tooth, and played with Yes, Humble Pie and Renaissance. All Will Be Changed appeared in 1970. It's a 40 minute Hammond Organ orgy in the style of Quatermass' Gemini or the wildest Keith Emerson. Frumpy 2 came wrapped in a round plastic bag. Rainer Baumann (guitar) joined. Their best work, with tracks no shorter than 10 minutes, an excellent guitar-organ masterpiece. Frumpy topped the "Musik Express" poll as the most popular German rock group of the year and the newspaper FAZ voted singer Inga Rumpf to be "the country's biggest individual talent," but a tour in England with Mott The Hoople failed to attract popularity. Musical differences with keyboardist Jean-Jacques Kravetz caused him to leave Frumpy, in spring 1972, to record a solo LP. But he returned for the recording sessions of Frumpy's third LP By the Way. Frumpy disbanded after a farewell concert on June 26, 1972. Inga Rumpf, Jean-Jacques Kravetz and Karl-Heiz Schott formed Atlantis. The year 1990 saw a Frumpy reunion and a new LP Now!. -- Andras Sumegi|
Future Legends (73), Seven Secrets (74), Prince Of Heaven's Eyes (75), Modern Masquerades (75)
Fruupp were an Irish band who released four albums of pastoral, progressive rock, quite similar to Genesis of that period. However, they were eclipsed in popularity by that band and were not as well known. The Prince Of Heaven's Eyes is from 1974, and contains all the trademarks of that era, including the ubiquitous Mellotron. The music is very melodic and will surely appeal to those who enjoy the symphonic, keyboard-oriented style of prog rock. Songs for a Thought is a compilation (clocking in at just under 76 minutes) that collects material from their releases (plus an otherwise unavailable bonus track), and should serve as a fine introduction to the band. The music is centred around the keyboards of Stephen Houston, with lush Mellotron-strings backgrounds and melodic piano comps and leads. The style is probably quite similar to what Genesis did in the early-to-mid 70s, a bit mellower, though fuller sounding. Additionally, Fruupp employ a wider arsenal of instruments including violin/cello and oboe.
This somewhat overlooked band hails from Ireland and has a very symphonic sound which compare favorably to old Genesis. They had four releases, with Modern Masquerades being far and away their best. This is a classic band that, unfortunately, all too few people are aware of.
Early symphonic band from Britain that sounds as much like Cressida, Spring, Beggars Opera et. al. than the many Genesis comparisons. Also sound a bit like Family, and have a possibly more odd symphonic/vaguely folky sound
Irish folk-rock band, who's sound is vaguely comparable to the quieter more idyllic side of early Genesis circa Trespass, but with a stronger folk influence. Really nice stuff when one listens closely, but fails to generate any real long term excitement.
Modern Masquerades is ok, but sounds a little dated and has too much electric piano for my tastes. It does have some beautiful passages and excellent arrangements, though.
Future Legends is a near-classic of British-style prog. From Ireland, Fruupp gave many of their British contemporaries a run for their money (figuratively, of course). Centre stage of Future Legends is the sublime guitarist Vincent McCusker. His ripping style full of fast runs and arpeggios brings to mind Jan Akkerman. The music is given a magical cast in the lyrics and vocals of bassist Peter Farrelly. The lyrics are more explicitly fantasy-orientated even than Yes, while Farrelly's voice has an affable high-pitched Celtic tone that makes their music uniquely Irish sounding. Keyboards by Stephen Houston take a back seat to the up-front guitar. Houston also plays oboe, giving an odd Middle-Eastern feel to a few of the darker passages, and also sings some wordless vocals in an ethereal falsetto. Future Legends gives all these elements their proper measures, especially McCusker's guitar, which is all over the place in "Decision", "Graveyard Epistle" and "Lord Of The Incubus." Definitely worth seeking out. Seven Secrets is a bit of a transition. McCusker's guitar is still at the helm, but the music is becoming more subdued, even folky. Also, there are more overt classical references. In fact, the intro to "Faced With Shekinah" sounds directly lifted from Vivaldi's "Spring" concerto (of course, one of The Four Seasons). By the time of Prince Of Heaven's Eyes, the music had become still more subdued. Houston's keyboards had fully come to the fore by now, adding some icky string-synth to his keyboard arsenal. The manic riffing of earlier albums is now all but a memory, exchanged for a subtle, dignified type of music with a strong classical base, centered around Houston's piano and organ. Although it doesn't generate the excitement of Future Legends, the music is not without its melodic charm. "Crystal Brook" is the most breathtaking song on the album. "It's All Up Now" and "Annie Austere" are pleasant and memorable. "Prince Of Darkness" is a quaint novelty. The CD adds a bonus track: "Prince Of Heaven.". -- Mike Ohman
Non Stop (77)
The Globe (80)
78 R.P.M. (81)
8 Obratów (81)
Hit Parad (82, EP)
Po Dziesiecu (83)
Ten Years After (83)
In Concert (84)
I Love You Up to Here (87)
Nothing Left to Do (89)
... Compilations ...
|According to Audion's "East-Euro Discography," FSB have two keyboardists who play a symphonic sound comparable to Omega. 2 is recommended starter, later albums are mainstream rock. -- Mike Taylor|
|Tremendously popular Bulgarian band that in the '70s started out as a dual-keyboard prog band with jazz, rock and classical influences. I haven't heard the first album, but apparently it features a classically trained violinist. The second album has some funky jazz numbers, and may have some people asking "What's the big deal?" But stick with it and listen closely, the dual keyboards add a refined touch to many of the pieces, akin to Italian bands of the league of PFM. "Gold" is a dreamy etude featuring a haunting, wordless female voice. "For Goodbye" starts off with a complex solo piano with layers of synthesizer slowly entering until the piece concludes with a frenetic multitude of synths. Very rewarding. -- Mike Ohman|
Long before it became another in the long line of abbreviations denoting a certain Russian
intelligence agency, FSB stood for Formation Studio Balkanton, one of the few Bulgarian
progressive rock bands to record albums in the 1970s (actually, one of the few recording rock
bands in the country that at the time was far from tolerant towards the whole idiom). On
their debut, Non Stop (UBP International UBP-023), the band included a bassist, two
drummers, two percussionists, a saxophone player and two keyboard players operating an
impressive arsenal of pianos, synthesizers and Mellotrons (though not quite as impressive
as the cover would suggest).
"Dynamic" and "Intermezzo" are the album's prime cuts, swaying and swooping brilliantly between the opposite poles of dense fusion beats and colourful keyboard symphonics. "Ten Years After" and "My Town" are more accessible ballads, with piano, acoustic guitar and vocals supported by sumptuous keyboard arrangements, sweet and catchy without being cloy or calculating.
The title "Power and the Glory" and several suspiciously familiar riffs heard on it inevitably lead one to think about a certain non-aggressive, vertically well-endowed chappie, and suspicion proves correct when "Free Hands" and "Reflection" erupt from the speakers, as they are unmistakably instrumental (apart from wordless vocals) adaptations of Gentle Giant's "Free Hand" and "I Lost My Head". Slightly simplified but quite spirited, these adaptations are fun to listen to, but I wonder why the band included them, and, as there are no writing credits on the CD, whether the composers received any royalty from these versions. Actually, it seems that "Intermezzo" is also a cover version, of a song from Patrick Moraz' The Story of i album, and some of the others may also be so; however, I don't know that album well enough to tell.
Overall, though, Non Stop is stylistically bit of a mixed bag and at 33 minutes a small bag as well, but the tunefulness of the material and the stylish use of vintage synthesizers make it a compelling listen. Very nice and pleasant as long as you don't expect anything earth shattering. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Click here for a discography
Champs III (a.k.a. C4AM95)(97)
The Fucking Champs lV (00)
The Fucking Champs V (02)
The Fucking AM Gold (?)
... more, but their discography is confusing ...
Champs explore alternate big bang theory ...
Now this is progressive metal! If you like layers of chunky but crisp rhythm guitar parts, hot poly-meters and a feeling of being attacked by hoards of lean, mean fighting machines, you might have met your long lost love in these San Francisco instrumental rockers. Not metal in a traditional sense; there is no singer and few solos or even "songs" for that matter. These guys put you in the studio with them as they tear it up, unapologetically demonstrating what heavy rhythmic musicianship is all about. There's even a few techno pieces to keep things fresh. Of the two CDs I've heard, Champs III (Frenetic, 1997) is best and a great introduction to a band whose name won't pass these lips in mixed company. Guitarist/Korgist Tim Green also has some other interesting instrumental CDs. Highly recommended, even for non-bangers. -- David Marshall
|Links||Click here for The Fucking Champs' web site|
Führs & Fröhling Live 1980 (01, Live from 1980)
Heinz Fröhling and Gerd Führs
Two-thirds of Schicke, Führs, and Fröhling: guitarist Heinz Fröhling and keyboardist Gerhard Führs, continuing on without the aid of drummer Eduard Schicke, who departed to join Hoelderlin. As a result, the music is sapped of its rock power, but does have moments of majesty that make these albums worthwhile. Ammerland is hampered by a few Fröhling compositions on side one, which were obviously written as solo acoustic guitar pieces, yet were awkwardly arranged to accomodate Führs' synths and Mellotron. But the other songs are pleasant enough in a Gordon Giltrap sort of way, and the B-side is simply beautiful. The 13-minute "Every Land Tells A Story" is a marvel of acoustic and light electric guitars, piano, synths galore and impressionistic sound-effects (most dramatically, a Moog thunderclap about 3/4 of the way through). The closing song, "Ammernoon," is an uncommonly dark and eerie number with droning synths and Mellotron a la Heldon, with a Floydian use of a taped recording of a man's crying voice. Strange. Strings finds the band adding drums (some played by Führs, some played by guest Detlev Wiedeke) and using much more electric guitar. They also seem to be spreading themselves a bit thin, trying to cover rock, prog, neo-classical, jazz, disco (Gack!), reggae and new-age all in the space of one 35-minute album. Still, there are some songs that stick with you, especially Führs' beautiful synth piece "Open Valley." "Dancing Colours" has some very nice acoustic soloing from Fröhling. In spite of the use of some rinky-dink electronic drums on a few songs, Diary manages to be more cohesive than its predecessor. "All Through The Night" even allows Fröhling to play his acoustic guitar ... ALONE! with no intrusive synth interjections from Führs. "All Hallows' Eve Dream," the haunting "Mind Games" and Führs' "China Puppet" are all beautiful songs with lovely melodies. "Back And Again" really rocks, reminding of the title song from "Ticket to Everywhere.". -- Mike Ohman
|Gerd Führs and Heinz Fröhling, keyboards and guitars respectively, started off as a spinoff of SFF. Their music is powerful and full of imagery, largely due to a high level of melodic interplay and fluid dynamics; The lack of drums gives the music an acoustic ethereal feel (although some tracks on Diary do feature drums and are more upbeat). No Vocals. "Every Land Tells A Story," a fourteen minute track from Ammerland, is some of the sweetest music my ears have ever heard!|
|Führs and Fröhling, were two of the three members of SFF, who branched out to create 3 releases that carried on the SFF sound. The music is instrumental, and features Fröhling's guitars, very melodic, perhaps in the style of Gandalf, etc. over the keyboard washes of Mellotron, moog and other such classic weapons of seventies progressive rock. As such, the music is more mellow than other groups of that time, and straddles the edge between instrumental rock and progressive rock. The closest comparison would be to Gandalf or, perhaps, Gordon Giltrap.|
[See Schicke, Führs, and Fröhling |
for SFF's (and Führs and Fröhling's) web site
Fulano (87, re-released on CD '93)
En El Bunker (89, re-released on CD '94),
El Infierno de los Payasos (92)
Trabajos Inutiles (97)
|Chilean underground band that must have gotten a recent supply of Recommended Records distributed to them. Sound very much like a Henry Cow gone mad, and while I've heard the Canterbury comparisons, these guys sound much too odd to be anywhere close. Tape only so far.|
From my standpoint, the best south-American band, which started its career
while Pinochet still reigned with hard, clenched fist. A sextet of keyboards
(piano, Fender Rhodes,...), saxes (alto, tenor, baritone), bass clarinet,
bass, drums, vocals and occassional clarinet (by singress Arlette Jequier).
No guitars, except on a piece or two on El Infierno!! Is sax (mostly) or
keys (sometimes) driven. For those of you who measure "progressiveness" of
the bands with the track length (10+), this band made at least two plus a
bunch of 6', 7' and 8'-plusers on first two album.
In a few words, band which shifts up and down the line which connects Cantebury sort of a fusion with Rock In Opposition sound and adds to this, rather explosive sonic treatment, overtones of Andean ethnic music, latino, classic jazz and jazz standard, funk, blues, soul, metallic rock, etc. If I count the average (here inspired by Gnosis2000 :,)), often halfway between Henry Cow and Hatfield and the North, with standard deviation extended to sort of jazz rock. In a way somehow nearer to Area, maybe a bit more clasifiable than legendary Italians, or actually, who knows.
Their eponymous debut is almost a classic of RIO-ish sound. One can hear almost all bands of that "genre" and none at the same time. Sometimes on the refined way of LegEnd, sometimes modernly tumultous (Blast, Shub Niggurath came on mind but neither C'Etaient nor anything else in this way was recorded by that time) or even Decibel-ically industrial at times. As said this album is the most "opposing" of the bunch, but never totally in Cow vein (although Cow were the greatest influence here), or clearly Present-ly tense or Samlaesquely quirky. Majority of tracks is nicely arranged (always with native or latino feel) and melodies are only semi-angular even when band veers into contempo waters. Arlette's singing is here quite on the spot although Dagmar Krause she is not (unfortunately). She seems to be more at home in cabaret jazz, latino, blues or soul ways of singing.
The second, En El Bunker, is, while smoother than debut, equally difficult, as it pulls listener behind him into all possible musical spheres, often totally unpredictably, so it's quite tiresome (like a wild horse) and demands more "go-through-s". Their ability to make fantastic, exotic arrangements is perfected here. Overall, album has a darker sound, but not in a UZ way. Sometimes they remind me of Magma minus throbbing bass, and minus other zeuhlish elements, but with sorta exalted Wagnerian feeling, what can be esp. heard on "Gran Restrictor, Ten Piedad (De Nosotros)". I don't know if these recordings were really in bunker, sealed by the tyranny of Pinochet, but for my knowledge of Spanish, few songs were definitely not supporting his regime. (Bunker's were popular in all mono-partismic systems (communist, fascist) with sole aim of storing unwanted artistic and scientific achievements, which were not "in tune" with those regimes and their supporting systems far away from the sun and human knowledge.) CD is 73 minutes long (it could be a double album or two albums could be done out of it, when things down there would be normal), so I think it was worth 20 bucks on now less and less vital NSA.
En Infierno de los Payasos is more rocking in fusiony way (sometimes more "urbane") than their previous efforts, it can be quite heavy at times and is the least impressive of all four. I surmise band wanted to do something straighter and so welcomed the coming democracy in more celebratory way. Anyway, some Cow-isms, contempo-classical and other oddities can pour through the fairly rocking and modern (for 1994) sound of the Payasos.
Trabajos Inutiles (raw translation: Useless or Inutilizable Works) is their most accessible album. One track is taken from En El Bunker and renamed, but it is very good, so it's not a shame to listen to it again. For this album the only change in line-up happened, as Trabajos introduced new drummer. Here the main influence sounds to be Hatfield and the North, and while very melodic (in south-American way), only occasionally angular and rhythmic, this one makes a good starter. It seems to me that the band wanted to make it more commercial (in jazz vein) or they've only aged a bit, as tracks are made in a shorter song-format, the longest being 6+ minutes long.
Overall, music of Fulano is vanguard and not really inaccessible at the same time. It is definitely an example of well-done merging of vanguard with mainstream styles others than rock (but rock also). Now I'm really convinced that south-Americans cannot create something really zanily complex (say, in Tipographica or Doctor Nerve vein). The very first (and oldest) lines of this entry are somewhat misguiding. I recommend this to all real progsters, and not only to RIO or Cantebury afficianados. First three albums are released on Alerce, Chilean label, responsible for "different" music, which has also its own website, but they rarely seem to make business with the rest of the world, so there is some degree of risk if one'd like to order from there. Trabajos can be purchased somewhere in Maryland (guess, where), while for acquiring of others interested will have to bother their local distributors or favourite labels. Recommended again!!! -- Nenad Kobal.
|Thanks to Contacto (is that really a name?) for correcting the spelling of the third album ... El Infierno de los Payasos (The Hell of the Clowns) and not El Invierno de los Payasos (The Winter of the Clowns). -- Fred Trafton|
Full Moon (89)
Norweigan progressive-metal band from the mid 80's. Much of their sound is highly energized, comparable to bands like Hawkwind or Rainbow, maybe with even some punky undertones. When they get into their progressive mode, they tend to remind of early Pink Floyd, Robin Trower or Amon Duul. The vocals (in english) are OK, sort of punky at times, and seem a little muted but generally appropriate. Some smokin' heavy psychedelic guitar jams. Overall very good.
Fool Moon (75)
Allegorical Misunderstanding (93)
Hisou (Pathetique) (94)
The Caution Appears (95)
The Wound that was given birth to must be bigger than the wound that gave birth (96, a.k.a. Purple Trap)
A Death Never to Be Complete (97)
The Time Is Nigh (97)
Gold Blood (98, Live)
A Little Longer Thus (98)
The Wisdom Prepared (98)
Withdrawe, this sable Disclosure ere devot'd (98, Live)
I saw it! That which before I could only sense ... (00)
Origin's Hesitation (01)
Eien no ho ga, saki ni te o dashita no sa (To start with, let's remove the color) (03)
|This is really weird stuff! Mainly the project of Keiji Haino (guitar and recorder), but there is also a drummer and a bassplayer here. I have two CDs by them, but I think there are some more around. Allegorical Misunderstanding (produced by John Zorn) consists of sometimes relaxed jazz-like, mostly strange and somehow monotonous improvisations by the trio (guitar is dominating). This one is recommended for those interested in more "complicated" prog like Henry Cow or Fred Frith's solo stuff. The Caution Appears is an incredible noise-massacre, just very loud live-improvisations, completly different from Allegorical Misunderstanding. If you love Throbbing Gristle or other industrial stuff you may like this one, too. -- Achim Breiling|
|Described as Amon Duul II jamming with Guru Guru after a purple microdot swap. Said to be currently collaborating with John Zorn.|
Click here for an unofficial
but not bad Keiji Haino fan web site
Skeleton In Armour (73)
Fusion Orchestra - Stan Land, Dave Bell, Jill Saward, Mick Sluman and Colin Dawson
Original entry, 12/15/00:
Fusion Orchestra was a British prog-rock band active between 1969 and 1975. Founded in by Colin Dawson (lead guitar), Stan Land (second guitar) and Dave Bell (drums) they were joined in 1970 by singer, keyboard player and flautist Jill Saward, who currently sings with jazz/funk band Shakatak.
Their only album, Skeleton In Armour, was released in 1973 featuring the above line-up plus Dave Cowell on bass. Though the album lists nine tracks, four are in the "humourous filler" category and one is an undisguised commercial single. The four long tracks, "Sonata In Z", "Have I Left The Gas On", "Talk To The Man In The Sky" and "Skeleton In Armour" are jazz-tinged progressive rock, with powerful female vocals, frenetic lead guitar work, jazzy piano and flute work and a rhythm section which is very much at the front of the sound rather than providing understated backing.
The band continued playing throughout 1973 and 1974 but over time all the original members but Dave Bell departed and the band became more commercial. They eventually split up in mid 1975, at which time the band comprised Jill Saward and Dave Bell, along with Paul Jennings on bass and Alan Murphy (later of Go West and Level 42) on guitar. -- Ben Bell
Editor's note: Ben Bell, author of the above article, is the webmaster for a new Fusion Orchestra web site (see link below), and is also the keyboard player in Fusion Orchestra 2 with Colin Dawson. He is not related to Dave Bell. He contributed this article in the interest of adding some info about the band, from the perspective of a fan of the original band. Just so you are aware of any possible bias ...
Click here for the official Fusion Orchestra
No Prisoners (88)
Their Name says it all. Excellent 70's style fusion, closer to jazz than rock, with outstanding contributions from all band members. Very stylish and inventive. Only album to my knowledge is No Prisoners.
|Prog band. Supposedly quite good.|
Fuzzy Duck (70)
The Fuzzy Duck album was originally released as a limited quantity LP in 1970,
and the music sounds like it. To be honest, I don't really hear much here that we would
call "progressive" nowdays, though there are a lot of "proto-prog" influences, including
psychedelic guitar soloing, Hammond organ playing and
changes of mood and tempo far more than a rock "song" would have in it. But you have to
remember, this was standard fare in 1970's.
Fuzzy Duck sounds like a number of other bands that were "proto-prog" in various ways, and I can hear similarities to the early works of Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Iron Butterfly (in-a-gadda-da-vida, baby!), Led Zeppelin or even The Who. The vocalist seems to be making a conscious effort to sound like Robert Plant, particularly in the cut "One More Hour". There's a lot of blues guitar influence here too, I might almost hear some B. B. King on occasion.
My personal feeling: if you want a blast from the past, this is a nicely-recorded and well-done piece of early '70's rock. If you want "Progressive" with a capital "P", look elsewhere. -- Fred Trafton
Only a few dozens of the only Fuzzy Duck LP were originally released. Recently, the album
was for the first time released on CD. However, the length of the original "Fuzzy Duck"
album was about 40 minutes and there were only seven songs on it. The booklet of this CD
doesn't contain information on this matter.
So, let's begin with the contents of the original "Fuzzy Duck" album. Above all, it must be said that the band played a very original music, successfully combining the energy of Deep Purple with the intricacy of Yes. (Certainly, the examples that I used in the previous sentence are relative, but not comparative.) All seven of the songs that were presented on the original LP were created within the framework of a unified stylistics, the best definition of which would probably be the next. Overall, this is a blend of Classic Art-Rock and Hard Rock. However, only four out of seven songs completely conform to that definition. These are "Time will Be Your Doctor" and "Mrs. Prout", "Country Boy", and "In Our Time" (tracks 1, 2, 6, & 7). Each of them contains a few lengthy instrumental parts, most of which consist of virtuosi, high-speed and hard-edged, arrangements. All of these songs are filled with such essential progressive ingredients as frequent changes of tempo and mood, odd measures, diverse and, often, contrasting interplay between solos of organ and bass guitar, and riffs of electric guitar, etc. Yes, interplay between solos of organ and bass guitar, all of which are very diverse, tasteful, and virtuosi, play a prominent role in the development of arrangements throughout the album. While the bright, masterful, and truly significant solos of guitar are featured only on five tracks: "Time Will Be Your Doctor", "Just Look Around You", "Afternoon Out", "Country Boy", and "In Our Time" (1, 3, 4, 6, & 7). Withregard to the "level of progressiveness" however, "Mrs. Prout" and especially "Country Boy" (2 & 6) surpass all the other songs on the album. Structurally, all three of the remaining tracks: "Just Look Around You", "Afternoon Out", and "More Than I Am" (3, 4, & 5), are not munlike those four songs that I've described above. There are, however, the less number of hard-edged arrangements on these three songs. Nevertheless, the instrumental arrangements that are featured on them flow nonstop regardless whether there are the vocals, which is typical for the (original) album as a whole. In that way, all the songs that were present on the original Fuzzy Duck LP are definitely progressive. Each of the four bonus tracks of this album is about a pared-down version of the band's original style. In short, three of them are the nice and original Hard Rock songs, and the last track on the CD is the instrumental piece of the same character.
Frankly, Fuzzy Duck is a very strong and original album. I find it much better than many of the other albums that were released in 1970, including those by Focus, Colosseum, Hawkwind, Wishbone Ash, and even Yes. Fuzzy Duck had everything to become the cult band - at least like the same Hawkwind and Wishbone Ash. I can't find any info on the band, but anyway, I regret that they didn't continue their musical career. Doubtless, if the Fuzzy Duck LP would've been properly released and distributed, it would have been one of the most popular albums at that time. -- Vitaly Menshikov
A delightful combo of four guys who have all been in a string of obscure, short-lived prog/psych
groups. Mick Hawksworth (Bass, vocals and oddiments) had been in Andromeda and Five Day Week Straw
People. Paul Francis (Drums and misc. percussion) had been in Tucky Buzzard and moved on to
Tranquility. Roy Sharland (Organ) had been in a few one-off-single groups, and Grahame White
(Guitar and vocals) also played with Andromeda. Finally, White's replacement after the recording
of Fuzzy Duck, Garth Watt Roy (Guitar and Vocals), has been with the Greatest Show on Earth,
among others. Aside from their limited issue album, they later recorded a pair of singles before
calling it quits on their commercially unsuccessful career. Repertoire Records has very kindly
re-issued the album on CD with the 3 non-album tracks and a previously unreleased gem by the
title of "No Name Face" as bonus tracks. A very nice complete works package.
The music on the record is pretty much what you'd expect from the guys who created it: hard-rocking, unambitious prog with a plain and simple style. Think of it as Cressida without the brilliant experimentalism, or as Fields with more honest-to-goodness prog and less junk. Hawksworth and Francis are the dominant songwriters, but all the guys contribute significantly. The vocals aren't that great; White does pretty well but Hawksworth is a very bland singer to my ears and should stick with the bass. However, the rest of the playing is in great form, if not phenomenal, and the vocals can be overlooked without much difficulty.
Quality-wise, this is a pretty consistent and unpretentious record, but one with few highlights. "Time Will Be Your Doctor" and "Afternoon Out" are the strongest pieces, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them classics. I do love the chilling lyrics to "Afternoon Out": "Holding on to the life that's near gone, hanging onto a dream Your work's been done; you've had your fun; now leave!"
Garth Watt Roy took over all the vocals when he joined, with a style clearly based on opera and soul. This added a fresh sound to the group that they didn't really put to good use on the rather commercial A-sides of their two singles (one is a cover of "Big Brass Band"!), though the B-side was great. They also recorded "No Name Face" around this time, a punkish tune that I rate as one of their best. Even if you already have a copy of the original album, the Repertoire issue is worth picking up for that little gem.
Fuzzy Duck were in no way a standout prog group, but they were quite good and didn't raise their pretentions over their abilities. Their refreshingly consistent album is worth checking out if you like early progressive without the synths. -- Robert Orme
Made In Heaven (85)
Bound For Space (87)
For Earth Below (90)
Blomar i ei natt (94)
Bingo (97) [Note: This album is not listed in Fylling's own discography. It may be wrong or an alternate name]
Hey, You Listen (97)
Englene Sang Den (97)
In the Trees Near By (98)
Frozen Planet (01)
Deep Silence (02)
Guidede Meditasjoner (02)
Hvil deg litt (03)
En reise gjennom Chakraene (04)
The first two albums are full band projects, led by Fylling's keyboards and synths, with soaring guitars, strong bass and drums, with guest saxes, flutes and female vocals. The style is a classically influenced melodic progressive rock, with wall-of-sound keyboards, split about 50/50 between instrumental and vocal tracks. These albums are extremely powerful and dramatic, full of beauty and brilliance, and very unique. The Third album is more of a keyboard dominant sound, spaciness balanced with powerful rhythmics, with guitars secondary and programmed percussion, ending up sounding somewhere between Vangelis' Heaven and Hell period and Michael Garrison's Earthstar. Definitely more synthetic than his first two. Start with Bound For Space.
|Links||Click here for the Egil Fylling Home Page|
The Fyreworks (98)
The Fyreworks - (Top row) Tim Robinson (drums) and Doug Sinclair (bass). (Bottom row)
Andy Edwards (vocals, guitar), Rob Reed (keyboards) and Danny Chang (guitar)
The Fyreworks is guitarist Danny Chang's brainchild, and one of the first produced for F2 Music (then Festival Records) by Rob Reed (Cyan, Magenta and others). Rob is also the keyboardist for this band, which is filled out by other F2 artists Tim Robinson (Cyan, Magenta, The Othello Syndrome and others) on percussion, Andy Edwards, vocalist and lyricist and Doug Sinclair (The Steve Hackett band), bass and effects.
Describing the Fyreworks will inevitably require a reference to Jethro Tull, due both to guest Lee Goodall's flute work, but also to the "English Countryside" feeling (this album was recorded in a farmhouse in Wales!) and even the guitar and organ playing. But it's really hard to compare this album to anyone else in particular ... it's really got its own unique sound, but squarely in the symphonic camp. Danny Chang says he wanted to limit the keyboards to "vintage" types, particularly Hammond, Mellotron, Moog and piano, which really gives the album a '70's sound. The whole recording really has that "warm analog sound", though it seems to be missing the tape hiss of the old '70's releases. There is one spot in the middle of the album, starting during the solo piano of "The Consequences of Indecision" and continuing into "Broken Skies" where you can hear LP clicks and pops. What's up with that? Did they include them on purpose, to increase the '70's feel? Strange ...
"Master Humphries Clock" is my favorite cut on the album, with its story of time travel back to victorian England, and a cool sound byte of horse-drawn carriages, as if you've just popped into the past audially. This is followed closely by the "Broken Skies" suite with its introspective lyrics, changing musical styles and some nice solos from each member of the band. Actually, I don't think there's a bad cut on the album.
In short, a great album, and highly recommended for all symphonic prog fans. They are currently at work on their second album, tentatively titled Penny for the Guys. I can't wait to hear it! But no release date has been announced as of this writing. -- Fred Trafton
[See Cyan |
Othello Syndrome, The]
Click here for F2 Music's web site with info on The Fyreworks and all the related bands