No-Man [UK]
Updated 8/21/06

Discography
Lovesighs - An Entertainment (92)
Loveblows and Lovecries - A Confession (93)
Flowermouth (94, re-issued 1999)
Heaven Taste (95, reissued 2002)
Flowermix (95)
Wild Opera (96)
Dry Cleaning Ray (97, mini-album)
Radio Sessions: 1992-96 (98, CDR)
Speak (99)
Returning Jesus (01)
Lost Songs: Volume One (01, CDR)
Together We're Stranger (03)

Plus a number of singles and EP's

Reviews
No-Man 2000 - Tim Bowness (vocals) and Steven Wilson (instruments)

Tim Bowness and Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) work together on this project they call "disillusioned dream-pop". They employ the frequent use of progressive guest artists such as Robert Fripp, Richard Barbieri (Porcupine Tree), Theo Travis (Cipher) and Mick Karn. I haven't heard any of their music personally, but it is said to be somewhat similar to Porcupine Tree, including influences of "white soul", ambient music and electronica. Many prog fans reject their style as "not prog" while others embrace it, much the same as Porcupine Tree.

Bowness is also associated with several other bands including Henry Fool, Samuel Smiles and Darkroom. He was a former member of After The Stranger. Steven Wilson is associated with many other bands, including Porcupine Tree, Incredible Expanding Mindfuck and Bass Communion. -- Fred Trafton

Links
[See After The Stranger | Harmony in Diversity | Incredible Expanding Mindfuck | No Man Is An Island | Porcupine Tree]

Click here for No-Man's web site


No Man Is An Island [UK]
Updated 5/30/03

Discography
No Man Is An Island (* Except The Isle Of Man) (85)
A Girl From Missouri (85)
Reviews
Mid-80's neo-prog meets modern rock. Vocalist is good but the overall sound seems aimed at airplay a-la Tears for Fears, Simple Minds et al. Nothin' special.
This band was an early incarnation of No-Man. It is not clear to me that the discography is correct ... the No-Man web site lists only "The Girl From Missouri" as a (not successful) single released in 1989. At any rate, this band added dance rhythms and hip-hop/dub influences to become No-Man. -- Fred Trafton
Links
[See No-Man]


No Secrets in the Family [Switzerland]
Updated 7/15/06

Discography
In Certain Light We All Appear Green (87)
Play And Strange Laughter (89)
Kleinzeit (92)
Reviews
RIO band of the 3rd generation of which it is said, that it was heavily influenced by Gentle Giant, at least on one album, but also with New Wave bordering RIO bands like Residents and the likes. I believe that, for "Giants" are quite popular amongst RIO musicianship. Verification would be on the spot, though. -- Nenad Kobal
Links
The web site which used to contain some information deteriorated and has now vanished.


Nobilis Factum [Mexico]

Nobilis Factum (82)

Classical keyboard-oriented prog.


Nocenzi, Gianni [Italy]

Empuza (88)

Ex-Banco pianist.

[See Banco del Mutuo Socorso]


Noetics [Germany]
Updated 5/5/03

Discography
Noetics (99)
Cohearence (01)
Reviews
Noetics - Christian Schmidt (Percussion), Christoph Majewski (Guitars, Guitar Synths), Ole Ohlendorf (Keyboards, Synthesizers), Emel Mohammad Yar (Tablas), Arne Borchard (Bass), Patrick Wurster (Drums) and Miko Mikulicz (not pictured)(Violin)

Noetics [are] from Hannover, Germany. Their music is very close to Ozric tentacles and will suit many listeners of Space fusion sub-genre. -- Bahy Saad

Links
Click here for the Noetics web site


Noetra [France]
Updated 5/28/02

Discography
Neuf Songes (92)
Hauts Plateaux (93)
Definitivement Bleus (00) (ProgressoR review)
Reviews
Neuf Songes is FABULOUS, very intricate and occasionally dark somewhat Canterburyish kind of stuff. The pieces are mellow and rolling as well as intense and energetic, the writing is excellent, and there is over 70 minutes of *great* music on this Musea CD. The instrumentation is based around a beautiful clean electric guitar, delicate and tasteful drumming, bass, violin, and oboe/flute with a bunch of other strings and woodwinds helping out. At some points it veers towards a 20th century classical style, where the drums drop out and there is some great woodwind and string polyphony, but for the most part the drumming and bass keep the music moving along at quite a palatable clip for most prog listeners. This album creates the same mysteriously peaceful kind of feeling I get from Laurent Thibault, and also at times reminds me of the group Oregon. The Canterbury component of the sound is kind of a mix of early Henry Cow, Hatfield, and National Health, though you shouldn't get the impression that Noetra goes off on "Dreams Wide Awake" type jams. The intensity on Neuf Songes is created by the wonderful composition, dynamics, and controlled dissonance.
Even though the title of this CD reissue is Neuf Songes (Nine Musings), there are thirteen. Noetra recorded these thirteen thought provoking "musings," one to ten minutes in length, between November 1979 and August 1981. Noetra, a large ensemble, featured: Jean Lapouge (composer) - guitar, Christian Paboeuf - flute and oboe, Daniel Renault - drums, Denis Lefranc - bass, Pierre Aubert - violin, Pascal Leberre - clarinet and soprano sax, Francis Michaud - tenor sax and flute, Denis Vollet - cello, Claude Lapouge - trombone, Jacques Nobili - trombone, and Laurent Tardif - alto flute. Noetra successfully straddled the interface between rock, classical chamber music, and jazz without creating background music or falling prey to avant garde excess. Neuf Songes reminded me of the album Un Certain Pays by another obscure French band Human. Both bands created a unique blend of these musical styles. If bands like Art Zoyd, Third Ear Band, and Universe Zero stimulate you, but you prefer music a bit more in the mainstream, then Neuf Songes is for you.


Noir [UK]

We Had To Let You Have It (71)

Prog.


Noisy Room, The [Italy]

The Chessboard (92), Samsara (94?), several cassettes

The Chessboard is the first release by this Italian band, fronted by "famed" net-ster Marco Olivotto, who operates under the nom-de-plume of Ohm. The primary influences that strike me are Peter Hammill, and, to some extent, Peter Gabriel, mainly due to the vocal stylings of Olivotto, though one of the tracks, "Cross and The White Shield" would not be out of place on any Hammill/ VDGG release. The music is generally not as sparse as most of Hammill's work, and consists of lead passages on guitar and keyboards, with interludes of understated sax-work atop an underlying base of melodic keyboard chords. Thus, for those of us who wished that there were more instrumentation present in Hammill's compositions, this CD is the answer, along with, possibly, some of Hammill's more recent efforts. The mood on The Chessboard varies from quiet to intense, with electric lines springing from the dual guitar arsenal of Ohm and Fabrizio Daicampi (FDc), making for a compelling debut from TNR.

Italian duo of keyboards/vocals and guitar, with supporting musicians on drums, bass, backing vocals, etc. Their sound may elicit comparisons to Peter Hammill, although TNR offers far more instrumental fire and passion. Vocals are in english, and the lyrics are thoughtful and experiential. The sound may not be busy or superficially complex enough for some, but the power here, as with Hammill, Roger Waters, and others, is in the songs not the arrangements. A very strong album - one of the best of '92.

Imitation is the sincerest of flattery - Charles Caleb Colton After a series of independently released cassettes The Noisy Room has finally released its first commercially produced CD The Chessboard. Formed in 1986, TNR is the Italian duo of Marco Olivotto AKA Ohm (keyboards, guitars, bass, and vocals) and Fabrizio Daicampi (guitars). Over the years TNR grew musically and on a promotional tour to England in August 1990 Peter Hammill asked to meet Marco. Since then Peter has supported and encouraged TNR in producing The Chessboard from its inception as a cassette release through to the final CD. Peter was so taken with TNR and their music that he made it possible for them to include his poem "Arrow" as part of "The Beat of a Different Drum (Sarajevo)," a commentary about the horror and strife in Yugoslavia. Through this relatively close association Marco unwittingly used Peter's acoustic guitar riff from "Alice (Letting Go)" for the piano accompaniment on "Solitaire," but the mood and subject matter are entirely different between the two songs. Make no mistake, TNR is not a Peter Hammill clone! The eleven songs on The Chessboard cover the spectrum of angst ridden themes from protest to those of love or opportunity lost. Marco and Fabrizio know how to balance their instruments against the vocals. Fabrizio's electric guitar solos are something to experience. On "Seasons End" and "The Path" the addition of Donatella Pedrotti's angelic soprano takes their music to new heights. The Chessboard is robust progressive rock, features extraordinary musicianship, and ultimately may be more accessible than Hammill's efforts.


Nolan, Clive [UK]
Updated 4/19/11

Discography
As Clive Nolan:
Conflicts (8?)
Skeletons in the Cupboard - Archive Vol 1 (03, Compilation of unreleased material from many Nolan projects)

For Nolan's discographies with his various bands, see separate entries under "Links" below

Reviews
Clive Nolan circa 1990

Conflicts is a solo work by the Pendragon keyboardist, consisting of the soundtracks to the movies "Cahersiveen" and "Old Priest." The music is all instrumental and keyboard-centred, and varies in style from rock-like pieces a la Wakeman, to quieter passages. The overall style is very melodic, and there are even echoes of contemporary American instrumentalists such as Yanni and Emerald Web, etc.


Clive Nolan is among the most prolific of contributors to the genre of what's commonly referred to as neo-prog. The bands he fronts or contributes heavily to include Arena, Casino, Neo, Shadowland, Strangers on a Train and of course Pendragon. -- Fred Trafton
Links
[See Arena | Caamora | Casino | Neo (UK) | Pendragon | Shadowland | Strangers on a Train | Wakeman, Oliver | Young, Michelle]

Click here for Clive Nolan's official web site


Nomadi, I [Italy]

Interpretana Guccini (74), Gordon (75), Ci Pensera Pol II Computer (8?)

Melodic Italian prog, has been compared to Spring.


Norlander, Erik [USA]
Updated 10/25/05

Discography
Threshold (97)
Into the Sunset (00)
Music Machine (03, 2CD)
Stars Rain Down (04, Live)
Seas of Orion (04)
Reviews
Erik Norlander and a few of his keyboards and rack-mounted sound sources

Eric Norlander is one of the motivators behind Rocket Scientists and co-owner with wife Lana Lane of Think Tank Media, their independent record label which produces and distributes a number of artists. In addition to this, plus guesting on several of Ayreon's CD's, he seems to have found the time, energy and inspiration to put out a couple of pretty good solo releases.

I've heard two songs, "Into the Sunset Suite" from Into the Sunset and "No Cross to Carry" from Threshold, both on the Think Tank Media sampler CD which came with Progression magazine issue #35.

The opening of "Into the Sunset Suite" is reminiscent of Ayreon, no surprise since Arjen Lucassen guests as guitarist on this album. But when the synth soloing and Hammond organ starts, you'll be reminded more of Keith Emerson than Ayreon, with a progmetal feel slipping into and out of the piece. This piece has some nice, easygoing sections perhaps reminiscent of Greenslade, then alternates with heavy Emersonian synth and Hammond solos. Another section features Lana Lane's multitracked vocal harmonies, sounding almost like an old black spiritual hymn before it gets back to the chorus that ties the movements of the suite together. Nice stuff!

"No Cross to Carry" is by far the simpler of the two songs, but has some nice synth textures and solos nonetheless. All instrumental, it features a funky phase-shifted clavinet reminiscent of Billy Preston's disco sound and has a couple of good Hammond and synth solos in it. I would almost say "it's dancable". But that's the kiss of death in the mind of many progsters. So stay seated and just enjoy the synth solos. -- Fred Trafton

Links
[See Ayreon | Lane, Lana | Rocket Scientisits]

Click here for Think Tank Media's web site


North Star [USA]
Updated 4/12/05

Discography
North Star (82, EP)
Triskelion (84)
Feel The Cold (85)
Power (92)
Tempest (00)
Reviews
Another average Genesis sound alike. Much better than most of the neo-prog bands, but a cut below the classics.
US Band, their first album Feel The Cold has some fairly good tunes, but also some pretty blatant mid-period Genesis rip-offs. OK but not great. Their two later albums are more original, but the singer is annoying and they suffer from bad production - actually I was surprised to see a bass player in the credits, they sound so tinny. Power has one excellent track "Circle," but otherwise it's got all the same problems as Triskellion.
Power is the newest release from this Pennsylvania band led by keyboardist Kevin Leonard. As with Feel The Cold, influences of IQ and Genesis are very prominent, and the CD is filled with keyboard-heavy compositions, littered with Banks-ian solos. Two of the tracks are instrumental, offering the musicians further opportunity to showcase their virtuosity. Furthermore, lead vocalist does a mean Peter Gabriel.
Believe it or not, North Star has been around since the mid seventies. But why has no one heard of them until recently? Well, averaging one release every three years could be a reason, but this Pennsylvania based neo outfit seems to lack anything that makes them stand out. While their recent Syn-phonic release Feel the Cold had some nice moments (albiet most of them sounded like post-Gabriel Genesis) Power explores the '76 Genesis style along with aspects of bands like IQ and Pendragon. While this album has its share of strong drumming (in fact I like the drumming quite a bit on some tracks) and decent keysmanship, the overall style has been done before. Apart from the derived songwriting, the vocals are the biggest detraction. Distorted and weak, I can barely make out any of the lyrics without the liner notes in front of me, though the instrumental pieces shine at times. If you like the post-progressive Genesis-influenced bands, there's a good chance you'll find something redeeming in North Star.
Released earlier this year on cassette North Star's latest effort Power is now available on CD from their own label. The band put a lot of effort in to this package. Jon Alderfer's cover art features a fantastic Metropolis styled industrial setting with ranks of marching robots and a zeppelin in the sky. I expected dark and sinister music. Instead North Star delivers some upbeat jazz fusion crossed with progressive rock ala Genesis' And Then There Were Three. Both Kevin Leonard (keyboards) and Dave Johnson (guitar) are accomplished musicians. The combination of their talents propels the music from the first song to the final note on the CD. Little hooks from their songs continue to haunt you days later. A minus for me is Joe Newman's nasal voice. He sounds like Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, or Marillion's Fish but without the range of emotion or tonal quality these vocalists can achieve. Though not as good in my opinion as their last effort Feel the Cold, North Star continues to fill the void in US produced progressive music. Seek these guys out.
One of the members of North Star was offering a sampler tape of two selections from each of their first three full length albums, Triskelion, Feel the Cold and Power. I took him up on his offer and this is based on those songs. Generally, the band fall into a neo-progressive vein though they seem a bit more inventive than many of them (e.g., Jadis, Pallas, Chandelier or Deyss). The songs show a fairly strong Genesis influence (say from Wind and Wuthering through Duke), particularly in the keyboards. The guitar is a bit heavier which gives an edge to the music, which is typical of most neo-prog bands. The keyboard work is generally very nice and lush. The vocals are kinda "ehhh." He sings like Marillion's Fish to me and I'm not a Fish fan so I don't care for them too much. They manage to throw in a few changes into each song to try and keep it interesting. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes not. Based on the songs I heard from each, there's no real difference among albums, though Feel the Cold and Power seem to show more Marillion influences. Because of this and because I liked "Bullfight" from Triskelion best, that's where I'd start.
Titles were released on a variety of formats in different years. Discography dates are for earliest release of title, regardless of format. Triskelion CD contains tracks from the EP.
Links
Click here for the only web site they seem to have
Click here for some reviews and ordering information for Tempest on the Fossil Records web site


Northwind [UK]

Sister, Brother, Lover (71)

Rare prog.


Nosferatu [Germany]
Updated 8/3/00

Discography
Nosferatu (70)
Reviews
An early Krautrock band. Their sole release consists of noisy and bluesy rock songs where gruff vocal sections are punctuated by aggressive and occasionally spacey jams with organ, guitar and sax solos. Energetic and at times rather sinister-sounding, but ultimately not very interesting. - Kai Karmanheimo


Not Drowning, Waiving [Australia]

Another Pond (84), The Little Desert (85), Sing Sing (86, EP), The Little King (86, EP), Cold and The Crackle (87), Claim (89), Tabaran (91), Kiap Song (91, EP), Proof (92), Circus (93), Spark (93, EP), Hammers (94)

Not Drowning, Waiving are a group from Australia that are not truly progressive, but will appeal to many fans of prog. rock. Basically if you like Peter Gabriel's more recent efforts (Us in particular) you should check these guys out. Actually PG has said that he really likes these guys. They have released about 8 albums in all, only a couple have found their way to the states though. I've been able to find Claim, in the cut-out racks for about $1.50. Their Their newest album Circus may very well be their best. It is, however, dying a quick and painless death. The production on Circus is much "slicker" than on their other material that I have heard. It is clear that they are trying for a wider audience with this album. The material itself though does not suffer. It is in fact a great album.


Notturno Concertante [Italy]

The Hiding Place (90)

Italian neo-progressive.


Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites [France]
a.k.a. NLC
Updated 12/26/07

Discography
Déreivations (89, Cassette)
Scissions (89, Cassette)
Lost Sand Divinities (90, 6-track "CD Single")
1ère Période Taôiste (91, Cassette)
Période Taôiste 2 (91, Cassette)
Incandescent (91, as Julien Ash)
Vestiges (92)
Allegro Vivace (92, Limited edition of 1200)
Angels of Oïkema (93, split album with Lietmøtiv)
Spiritus Rex (94)
Secret of Oïkema (94)
Clean/Unclean (95, 2CD)
Le Lieu Noir Project (in five parts):
  La Mer des Sarcasmes (95, Limited edition LP, 200 copies)
  La Mûre Reine (95, Limited edition LP, 200 copies)
  L'Amiral Ramirez (95, Limited edition LP, 200 copies)
  L'Amarre-Aile (96, Limited edition LP, 200 copies)
  La Morue Enrhumée (96, Limited edition LP, 200 copies)
Unis (96, re-issued 1999 w/ 3 bonus tracks)
Le Sanctuaire D'is (97)
Le Sang de la Licorne (97)
Le Domaine (98)
ASD 002 - The Cereal Killer (99)
Moon (00)
Oïkema (00, re-recorded version of Angels of Oïkema and Secret of Oïkema)
Revocation 1989-2001 A World of Illusions (01, 2CD Compilation)
The Link Cutters (01)
Les Grands Saules (02)
Seabirds (02, 6-track "CD Single")
L'Armée de Marbre (03)
The Book of Laments (03)
Friesengeist Part I: Juste Au-Dessus De La Terre Humide (04)
Friesengeist Part II: Regelmässige Zestôrungen (05)
Friesengeist Part pi: Ascendances (06)
Reviews
NLC's Julien Ash

Original entry 2/16/03, revised slightly 11/21/07:
Nouvelles Lectures Cosmopolites, or NLC, is the project name for Julien Ash, a French "ambient minimalist" composer, begun in 1989. Ash also calls many NLC albums "neo-classical". I don't know how "prog" they really are; the only album I've heard is Les Grands Saules and I can hardly call this album "prog". It's a cinematic album, with lots of spoken parts (mostly in French, though one section is in German, so I have no idea what they're saying), but it appears to be telling a story of some kind with lots of sound effects and "foley" noises (footsteps on crunchy leaves, carriages going by on a road, thunderstorms, etc.). It's apparently a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist.

Musically, the album is very minimalist, featuring lots of piano, acoustic guitar and symphonic synthesizers (or perhaps a real orchestra or at least string section in some places, who can tell?). But there isn't a lot of harmonic or rhythmic complexity, just a lot of what you might hear as background music in a movie. This album is well-recorded, but to be honest it just doesn't do that much for me. A bit too much like a movie soundtrack album. "Ambient" indeed! Very ignorable. However, they seem to cover a wide spectrum of styles on their immense discography, so I can't pass judgement on any of their other albums. -- Fred Trafton


Updated 11/21/07:
I got to admit that, even after hearing three more NLC albums ... the Friesengeist trilogy ... I'm no closer to "getting" this music than I was with Les Grands Saules. They have a lot of interesting things in them. Very French-sounding minstrel music, spacey whispered female voices with synth drones in the background, symphonic introductions with chorales ... but everything sounds like the beginning of an idea that could lead somewhere pretty cool, only to be repeated about a thousand times until you're totally hypnotized. It feels like it never goes anywhere, it just stays static for the duration of the song. For a short song, this isn't even that bad. But some of these stretch on for large numbers of minutes. I find myself asking, "Why does there need to be three of these albums? They sound all interchangable to me".

I don't really understand why I find this to be such a problem. I can think of many other albums I could describe in the same way that are some of my all-time favorites. But instead of getting hypnotized, I'm just bored. Maybe I need to be under the influence of some mind-altering substances to get it? I dunno. I don't find these albums to be very interesting in spite of being well-recorded and well-executed. I could easily imagine that NLC might be someone's favorite band. Or even mine in some parallel universe. But not in this universe. At least not at the moment. I just don't get it. -- Fred Trafton

Links
[See Sparrow-grass Hunt, A]

Click here for the web site of EDT, the label of NLC
Click here to order Les Grands Saules, the Friesengeist trilogy or many other NLC titles from Musea Records


Nova [Finland]
Updated 5/16/01

Discography
Atlantis (76)
Reviews
Nova were one of the one-shot wonders of Finnish prog, managing only one album and a single before their dissolution. Atlantis (Love Records LRLP 169) has three long songs (9 - 16 minutes), which reek of Pink Floyd and Eloy as they are heavy with strong and steady slow to mid-tempo rhythms, alternatively churning and celestial organ, occasional spacey string-synthesizer, rather restrained acoustic and electric guitar comping and solos in the David Gilmour style, and nice melodies over minor-key dominated chord progressions. I can also hear some influence of Wigwam's Jukka Gustavsson, especially in the extended organ soloing of "Vanha surullinen laulu" (The Old Sad Song). Though the playing is skilful and room is given for instrumental exploration ("Se vuosi" particularly has great piano and organ work, as well as some more energetic instrumental interplay), there is nothing particularly flashy here, and the main focus is kept on the vocals, which have a fair share of tension and melodrama as they deliver line after line of lyrics dripping with Weltschmerz. At the end of the title track the music sheds some of the booming pathos for a warmer melancholy that is very Finnish in the way that it manages to sound both depressing and cheerful at the same time. The only exception is the fourth track, a simple 3-minute blues number "Kaupungin naiset" (Women of the City) which has a bit more relaxed attitude in all departments. Overall, a nice, though by no means a classic album which may not win you over with complexity or originality, but may well do it with warm melodicism and strong performances, especially if you like Pink Floyd or Eloy. The original LP is a pricey collector's item, though it has been re-released on CD in Korea by Si-Wan Records (SRMC 4050). Nova also appear in both Love Proge and Love Proge 2 compilations, the latter of which contains their sole non-album b-side, the brief "Käytävä" (The Corridor). -- Kai Karmanheimo


Nova [Italy]

Nova (74), Blink (75), Vimana (76), Wings Of Love (77), Sun City (78), Terranova (??)

Relatively popular Osanna offshoot in the direction of jazz fusion.

The band formed in London and the first LP is a collaboration of Pete Townsend and Nick J. Sedwick. The album has a jazz-rock sound. The best LP is the last one which is rockier. After the 1st LP, Franco Lo Previte (drums, also played with Circus 2000) played with Kim and the Cadillac.

The point that everyone misses with Nova is that Blink is a completely amazing album full of technical complexities on the level of Zappa's best, and everything from there gets progressively worse. Vimana is still pretty good, but on the albums after that you can slice the cheese with a knife. -- Mike Borella

Some of the songs on Vimana features Phil Collins and Percy Jones of Brand X, and Narada Michael Walden of Mahavishnu Orchestra.

[See Brand X | Duello Madre | Genesis | Jones, Percy | Mahavishnu Orchestra | Osanna | Circus 2000]


Novalis [Germany]

Banished Bridge (73), Novalis (75), Sommerabend (76), Konzerte (77), Brandung (77), Vielleicht bist Du ein Clown? (78), Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hoert (78), Flossenengel (79), Augenblicke (79), Neumond (82), Sterntaucher (83), Bumerang (84), Nach Uns Die Flut (85)

Late seventies German prog rock musicians churning out that familiar strings/ organ/bass kind of sound, but doing a fairly good job of it. All their lyrics are in German, unlike, say, Rousseau, but once you get past those, the music is quite listenable.

I know three albums Sommerabend, Brandung and Nach uns die Flut. The first two are typical "progressive" of that era, with Brandung being the better of the two. Sommerabend is a bit mechanical in the German way. The 1985 album is, you guessed it, straighter. Not fantastic, but a pleasent listen.

Novalis is another of the many competent progressive rock outfits from Germany who released a few albums of lush, keyboard-dominant prog rock during the seventies. They were quite well regarded in Germany, but did not make it much beyond those shores in terms of popularity. Sommerabend is one of their best releases, and features all the hallmarks of the prog sound, with melodic leads over churning organ/strings providing a minor-chord backdrop, punctuated with numerous changes in mood. Most of the music is instrumental, with some occasional, non-intrusive, vocals in German. The CD contains three tracks, the last of which is the side-long (excuse the anachronism!) title "suite" in five parts, and is one of the most pleasant guitar/keyboard/minimal-vocal pieces in the genre, reflecting very well the track title (which translates to "Summer Evening").

Acclaimed German band whose first album, Banished Bridge, explains why all the other band's albums have German lyrics. Singer/acoustic guitarist Jurgen Wenzel reveals an absolutely tenuous grasp of the English language in his pathetically bad English lyrics. His raspy but bland vocals leave something to be desired. On the other hand, keyboardist Lutz Rahn paints a lush stereophonic landscape with synthesizers, Mellotron and lots of Banksian Hammond organ. His keyboard-colourings make songs like the 17-minute title song and "Laughing" especially come to life. Wenzel was out of the band after only one album. Two years passed before another Novalis album appeared. Bassist Heino Schunzel took his place on lead vocals. Added to the band were Detlev Job on lead guitar and Carlo Karges (ex-Tomorrow's Gift) doubling on guitar and keyboards. The self-titled album which resulted turned out to be the best Novalis LP, and among the best German prog LPs of all time. The album is primarily instrumental, with the odd light German vocal by Schunzel. The track "Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hort" is considered a German rock classic in Germany, but it's just one highlight of many on this album. "Impressionen" is a fantastic instrumental based on Bruckner's 5. Symphony. "Sonnengeflecht" sounds like something off of Camel's Mirage album, while the pulsating "Dronsz" is rather more typically German sounding. VERY highly recommended! Karges left after the great 1975 album, leaving the band a quartet once again. He eventually found himself guitarist in Nena of "99 Luftballons" fame! Sommerabend, while it does suffer from a thinner sound than its predecessor, is still a fine album with wall-to-wall keyboards, good Gilmour/Latimer-influenced guitarwork, and impressionistic musical motives, most easily observed in the 18-minute title suite. The band also begins to take its name to heart, the lyrics to "Wunderschatze" are based on a poem by Novalis, the 18th century German poet from whom the band takes their name. My favourite song, though, is the instrumental "Aufbruch." Also recommended, and the only one worth getting that you're likely to find on CD. (most of the band's 80's output is out on CD) Sommerabend was followed by a live album, Konzerte, which I haven't heard. Brandung from 1977 saw the beginning of a new era for the band. Another new member was introduced to the band, singer/guitarist/flute player Fred Muehlboeck. His singing is pretty much on the melodramatic side and may not be to everyone's taste. Two more tracks have lyrics based on Novalis' poems, and though I am no expert on the German language, the other lyrics (written by Muehlboeck) seem to be in a similar style. The 16-minute "Sonnenwende" suite, with its varying moods, seems to be the high point. On the other side, the close-to-9-minutes "Astralis" seems only half-written. Muehlboeck seemed to fit in better on the next album, Vielleicht bist Du ein Clown, which was graced by strange Hipgnosis cover-art. He wrote and played guitar on the instrumental "Zingaresca," which along with Rahn's Germanic-sounding instrumental "City-Nord" and the Genesisoid crowd-pleaser "Der Geigenspieler," is one of the album's high-points. "Vielleicht bin ich ein Clown" is another half-baked composition, but this time with a Jethro Tull-like flute solo. No Novalis poetry, although the closing track "Die Welt wird alt und wieder jung" is based on a poem by Friedrich Schiller. The band next released a compilation entitled Wer Schmetterlinge lachen hort, which includes live versions of that song and "Der Geigenspieler." One more live version of "Wer Schmetterlinge..." appears on the Brain Festival: Essen double album, featuring also Guru Guru, Message and others. I haven't yet heard either of these. I also haven't heard 1979's Flossenengel, the band's only other 70's album issued on CD so far, but reports say that was the last good one. Reviews of Neumond, Nach uns die Flut, Bumerang et al are generally appear to be generally unenthused. If you should find the self-titled LP or Sommerabend, jump at the chance to get them. Then get the rest of the '70s albums.

Novalis were a German symphonic prog band who released several albums during the '70s and into the '80s. The only album I have is Sommerabend which is considered by many to be their best release. It consists of three songs, two in the 10 minute range and the 18+ minute title suite. I've heard very little German symphonic but much of what I've heard has a spacy sound to it. Novalis is no different. In comparison, I am reminded mostly of Eloy with a strong guitar (electric and acoustic) and Hammond organ presence (less synth than Eloy; what synth there is seems mostly a string synth), Nektar and even Camel with the melodic guitar lines. The vocals are in German. The standout track is the title track, a very spacy and ethereal symphonic opus that features the moog, Mellotron and sounds of water lapping the shore. The sound is closest to Eloy circa Dawn or Ocean. The only problem is that the music isn't always as engaging as you might like. Still, in all, it is a very satisfying album that fans of Eloy and Nektar should enjoy.

[See Tomorrow's Gift]


Novela [Japan]
Updated 5/19/05

Discography
Miwakugeki (80)
In the Night (80)
Requiem (81, Mini-LP)
Paradise Lost (81)
Sanctuary (83)
Harmageddon Story (83)
From the Mystic World (84, Live)
Harmageddon Story 2 (84)
Unreleased Takes and Limited Edition (84, Mini-LP)
Brain of Balance (86)
Land of Time (86, Mini-LP)
Words (86)
Reviews
Seventies Japanese hard rock/prog band.
This band, led by T. Hirayama (see Teru's Symphonia) had a long career that began as essentially a pop band and later started to assimilate progressive influences like Renaissance and Rainbow. I have a "Best of 80-83" that's got one long progressive track and the rest of the disk stinks, but I've heard a newer one (I think it was Paradise Lost) and it was a lot better. Be careful. Vocals all over.
They started off as an amalgamation of Scheherezade (progressive rock band) and San Sui Kan (hard rock band) and was originally a progressive rock band. [Miwakugeki through Paradise Lost] were released under the original members, [Sanctuary through Unreleased Takes ...] were with new rhythm section and [Brain of Balance onward] were all new members except T. Hirayama. The first and second phases were (esp. the first) prog rock but the third was very pop, many fans were extremely disappointed and deserted the band at the time.

Scheherezade [as listed in the GEPR as of 10/25/00] is the reformed (one off) version of original Scheherezade and features the guitar, vocal and keyboard of Novela. In addition, Gerard is the band formed by T. Egawa (the keyboard player of Novela, and Scheherezade). -- Hideki Konno

Formed in 1979, Novela were one of the earliest forces in the Japanese progressive rock boom of the 1980s and apparently also the most successful. Their song-oriented yet bombastic approach to symphonic rock and domesticated take on rock star image (e.g. manga graphics on album sleeves and the abundance of make-up that suggests almost as much the ritualised transvestism of the Kabuki theatre as it does the buffoonery of the likes of Kiss) became a central influence of the Kansai-area progressive rock style, as later perpetrated by the likes of Pageant, Starless or Magdalena (in contrast to Tokyo bands like Bi Kyo Ran, Kenso or Outer Limits, who were slanted more towards instrumental work and drew more heavily on King Crimson or fusion than traditional symphonic bands). The band's leading forces were guitarist Terutsugu Hirayama (Teru's Symphonia) and Toshio Egawa (Gerard), who would in their respective bands build and improve on Novela's sound.

Judging by their debut album, Novela were influenced as much by 1970's hardrockers like Rainbow as they were by Genesis or Yes. Songs like "Illusion" revolve around vocalist Hisakatsu Igarashi's cocky yet dynamic voice (i.e. he can do the cry of the banshee, but mainly restrains himself), and break the riff-driven songs with neat textural shifts and guitar/keyboard solo trade-offs that remind of Ritchie Blackmore's duels with his shifting cast of keyboardists. On the other hand, the 12-minute "La Songerie" is a gentle symphonic number with lots of dreamy vocals, warm Mellotron, acoustic guitar and jazzy piano. "The Boyhood ~ The Cliff" combines both approaches with the solemn synthesizer opening crashing into heavy riffs and double-time heavy rock gallop where Igarashi howls like someone was disembowelling him with a very blunt knife. This kind of duality characterises most of their early albums: simplified but earnest symphonic rock mingling with hard rock shorn of its most abrasive edge. You might liken it to the kind of quasi-progressive AOR of early Asia, were it not that the coupling of the two styles is more Frankensteinian and the playing generally more adventurous than anything Asia ever got up to.

One of their most progressive songs is the two-part "Requiem", originally released on an EP, which combines a jaunting melody with Genesis-like acoustic guitars and solemnly bombastic keyboard arrangements (though Hirayama wrote the majority of Novella's material, it's Egawa's keyboards that are often the focal point of the song). The short Part Three, with English lyrics, appears on the Paradise Lost album (the CD version also includes the previous two parts). After that album, the band dropped their second guitarist and replaced their rhythm section. The next album, Sanctuary, seems to be their most popular release, and shows the band replacing some of the metal influences with more poppy ideas and packing those ideas tighter into songs like the snappy rocker "Lunatic". Genesis influence, comparable to the neo-prog bands of the time, shines through on the dramatic "To the Wings" and especially in the bouncy main melody of "Through the Forest", articulated alternatively on clinkety keyboards and heavy guitars. Novela's sound could here be termed a heavier and more dramatic version of British neo-progressive sound.

Novela's pinnacle achievement, however, is their 1983 album Harmagedon Story, apparently a concept album based on a manga series by author Mineko Yamada. Here the progressive, hard rock and pop influences find an excellent balance with songs such as the Rush-like "Tabidach (Dream Trip)", the introspective "Tabi" or the "Armageddonish" symphonic blow-out "Shirase Soshite Saisyusenso". There's even some female guest vocals on the mellow yet symphonic ballad "Mugen-Densetsu", and thematic material runs through the album. The second part, released less than a year later, is markedly weaker in comparison. A second keyboard player is credited, probably because Egawa was preparing to jump ship, and there is an abundance of glittery synthesizer textures, which dampens the fanfaric edge that had characterised the band's keyboard sound before. There are again some very good songs, but also some rather pedestrian pop-rock and the aimless plod "Ankoku No Majio", which lasts only three and a half minutes but seems to drag on for eight. Considering that this was the fourth album that Hirayama had written within the space of two years (including his first solo album Castle of Noi) some loss of quality was to be expected. Note that the most common CD version of this (King Records/Crime 280E 2051) puts both parts of the story on one disc, but omits one track from the first and two from the second.

Released between these two was the double live set From the Mystic World, with a setlist built mainly around Sanctuary, but also with several songs not present on Novela's regular albums. Of these the most interesting are the high-energy rocker "Eternity" and Egawa's solo spot "Trio", where the Emerson influence becomes central for the first time in his Hammond riffs and sonic-boom synthesizer leads (a severely reworked version of this song would later appear on Gerard's Save Knight by the Night). Briskly performed, this is a good introduction to the band, especially as the CD version (King Records KICS 2817-8) adds three additional songs from a contemporaneous flexi disc release.

My only experience of Novela after Igarashi and Egawa left is the song "Alfa City" from Brain of Balance; while structurally not that far from some of the simpler songs of the band's prime era, melodically, rhythmically and timbrally it is a worthy representative of 1980's synth-rock at its blandest. If the rest is of the same quality, I wouldn't bother with it. Though the band seem to have temporarily reformed in one form or another for a new version of "Illusion" on 1997's Novela Legend tribute album, there has been no comeback, but the amount of re-releases, repackagings and compilations in and around the year 2000 suggest that they still have some solid and solvent fan base left. While I personally think that Novela's disciples far surpassed their master, their music could still strike a chord with those who like vocal-oriented and hard-edged symphonic rock with popish leanings. And of course have no problems with Japanese vocalists. -- Kai Karmanheimo

Links
[See Gerard | Scheherezade | Starless | Teru's Symphonia]


November [Netherlands]

The First of November (94)

[See For Absent Friends]


Now [Belgium]

Now (??), Complaint of the Wind (87), Spheres (91), Deep (92)

Now are about the only Belgian group that plays progressive nowadays (there have been some excellent Belgian bands in the past, like Cos, Isopoda and Machiavel). They are IMHO truly excellent: superb guitars and keyboards, these guys (and one girl) play in the style of Yes in the older days... Their songs are very well constructed, and last from three to fifteen minutes. The only drawback might be the accent of the lead singer Vincent Fis (French-speaking in origin, all lyrics are in English). They have a great cover of Led Zeppelin's Kashmir on Deep, and "Wheels of Time" on the same album is pure genius. This would be the album I'd recommend. The album Now was a limited edition, so it might be hard to find. Definitely worth checking out!

A four piece group heavily influenced by Yes. 3 vocalists, nice vocal arrangements. Good playing, but the writing is less adventuresome than it could be. Spheres features an amazing cover of Led Zeppelin's "Kashmir" done in prog-ish style.

This Belgian four-piece creates a very accessible (if somewhat derivative) progressive pop sound which, at worst sounds like bad Yes on a good day, or at best sounds very colorful, intricate, melodic in a neo-prog sort of way. The worst album is Deep, featuring a wimpy cover of Led Zeppelin's tour-de- force "Kashmir," and a mediocre remake of a track from their previous album. It's only redeeming factor is the two-part "Wheels of Time," which accounts for about 19 minutes of this otherwise dull disc. Much better is Spheres from 91, although you need to discount the cheesy pop track "Children of the Dying World," which sounds like it belongs on an Asia album. But the 33 minute "Converging Universes" is hot, and worth the cost of the album. A few more shorter tracks round the album out. Complaint is their earliest (to my knowledge), but similar to the others in overall style. If I had to do it again, the only one of these three I would buy is Spheres.

New, Yes-influenced progressive rock from a Belgian group. On Spheres The music is well constructed and features a long, primarily instrumental, 33-minute suite that is the core of the release. The overall performance is executed quite well, and those who enjoy mid-to-latter-period Yes should have no trouble with this one. Deep is the second release. On this work, they have changed their approach somewhat, and the influences present on Spheres are not as readily apparent. However, the music is keyboard-dominant progressive rock, executed in very melodic style, topped by restrained vocals. On a couple of tracks, though, the vocal and harmony styles of Yes appear. Also included, interestingly enough, is a very well performed cover version of the Led Zeppelin classic, "Kashmir."

Its really hard to say anything about this band without including the word "sucks" somewhere in the review. They are neo-prog, with poor vocals, weak musicianship, and a derivative sound. Need I say more? Now does much to bring new meaning to the word "cheesy". Avoid! -- Mike Borella


Now [Japan]

Overnight Stay (??)


Now [USA]

Reactions/Heaven on Earth (85), Everything is Different Now (86), Now What (90), kNOW Reason (92)

This band sounds somewhat like a cross between the Grateful Dead, Yes, and King Crimson. Three of the members write and all three have vastly different styles, so the result contains an extreme diversity of material. Their first album (Everything is Different Now) seems to be the most popular, and it's also the most progressive in the traditional sense. The last two albums have more edge and are somewhat more mainstream, although by no means AM radio material. The band is rhythmically tighter than many other "undiscovered" progressive groups, and all the members are competent musicians. Barb Crawford, who plays drums on the first album, is especially noteworthy. On the flip side, because of its diversity the "direction" of the band is lacking. One track will appeal greatly to some, and the next will leave the same people cold. They also could use a stronger vocalist. Members of Episode and Now are currently collaborating on various projects.

California based progressive band, their sound is busy and melodic, with lots of guitar, and plenty of instrumental stretches. Their sound (at least on the first album) is a good synthesis of styles, and only occasionally reminds of others, very original and brilliant - yet it lacks the power of any true classic. Their vocals sometimes detract from the music rather than complement it. I heard the 2nd Now What once, was not impressed at the time.

Everything Is Different Now is the second CD by the band Now. It contains tracks penned by the band in the period from 1980-86, and was recorded in 1986. The music is well within the domain of mid-seventies progressive rock, and is quite comparable to other recent re-issues of US bands, such as Easter Island, with long, keyboard/guitar/drums interludes and non-standard time signatures. The vocalist has a style that is reminiscent of Derek Shulman of Gentle Giant, though the music is more structured a la Genesis. Despite the virtuosic style of the music, the lyrics are light and humourous enough to show that the band did not take themselves too seriously!

Sadly, this quartet disbanded in 1993. After ten years of playing together, the inevitable musical differences and personality conflicts became overwhelming. Though there have been hints of reunion, guitarist Jon Ernst recently moved back to Colorado, putting the final nail in the Now coffin. Their three albums are still available from Syn-Phonic records, or directly from the band members: send e-mail to Gary Morrell at gary@lanminds.com for information. Guitarist Gary Morrell and Drummer Barb Crawford have been collaborating with Episode keyboardist Nick Peck on various projects. You can expect to hear music from this trio at some point in the future. -- Nick Peck


Nowy Group, Ralf [Germany]

Lucifer's Dream (73), Escalation (74), Nowy 2 (75)

Munich jazz-rock band led by woodwinds player Nowy. Related to Amon Düül II, Popol Vuh and Cherubin.


Ñu [Spain]

Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy (79), A Golpe de Latigo (79), Fuego (??), El Mensajero del Mago (87), Dos Anos de Destierro (90), Imperio de Paletos (Live) (92), La Danza de las Mil Tierras (94), Others?

Ñu were a one-shot Spanish band who released their sole album in 1979. The quintet features violin, flute and Mellotron in addition to the usual guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. The seven songs are very heavy, driving and energetic works. The closest comparison I can immediately think of is Tarantula's heavy second album, but with violin and flute. The flute style brings to mind the early, blues-based Jethro Tull though the guitar playing is much heavier (I'm reminded of Uriah Heap, surprisingly). Ñu doesn't play a very complex style of progressive. Instead they emphasis the ROCK! The violin and guitar never let up except for occasional quiet passages. There's not much in the way of keyboards or synthesizer though there are a few nice Mellotron passages. Not bad but not great either. If you want to go to Spain, check out Mezquita, Crack or Triana first. -- Mike Taylor

Good Tull-influenced group with generous use of flute and violin. Slightly on the heavy side but with symphonic passages as well. Vocals are in Spainish. After teh second album they degenerated into a generic hard rock band. They are still active and apparently popular in Spain. I remember seeing a lot of their CDs on my last trip there (Spring 94). Their first album is very nice, but not great. -- Juan Joy

If you can tolerate the hyperactive vocals, sort of Geddy Lee-ish at his most manic, you'll find Cuentos de Ayer y de Hoy a vastly rewarding musical experience. By using both violin AND flute and mating them with searing hard-rock guitar, they create something that is at once symphonic and intense, something few have come even close to attaining. Add the odd Mellotron or synth and you have near perfection. An excellent album. The nine-minute "Paraiso de Flautas" (Flute Paradise) is quite incredible!. -- Mike Ohman


Nuance [France]

Territoires (89)

Modern french pop band with slight traces of Ange. Their album Territoires reminds me of the musea band Elixir. This will only be of interest if you're into loud "in-your-face" type french vocals. More annoying than anything.


Nucleus [UK]

Elastic Rock (70), We'll Talk About it Later (71), Solar Plexus (71), Belladonna (72), Labyrinth (73), Roots (73), Under the Sun (74), Alley Cat (75), Snakehips Etcetera (75)

Nucleus were a British jazz/prog (that is to say lots of jazz and touches of prog) band led by Ian Carr. The music on We'll Talk About it Later is reminiscent of middle period Soft Machine but much, much jazzier. There is far more emphasis on horns. Ian Carr plays trumpet and flugelhorn plus there are two saxophone players. Ian Carr's style was definitely influenced by Miles Davis as evidenced by his short, concise phrases and effective use of silence. In fact, Carr would later write a biography on Davis. Chris Spedding plays guitar. I think the sound is best summarized as Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter jamming with the Soft Machine circa 5. Some songs are very upbeat and others are laid back, so there is a good mix of styles. Very solid and an excellent recommendation for folks into the jazzier version of prog, such as Soft Machine and Isotope.

[See Grimes, Carol and Delivery | Holdsworth, Allan]


Numi [Italy]

Alpha Ralpha Boulevard (71)

Not a really interesting band.


Nuova Era [Italy]
Updated 6/23/00

L'Ultimo Viaggio (88), Dopo L'Infinito (89), Io e il Tempo (92), Il Passo del Soldato (95)

Their second album Dopo L'Infinito consists of two side-long suites. This album is a virtual classic and holds up very well next to the Italian 70's classics. If you can imagine great keyboards, emotional guitar work, and vocals that leave English singers spinning, you may be on your way to experiencing this great band.

Current Italian band. Their first album blended elements of the 70's italian sound with some 80's neo-prog influence, achieving a delicate balance that will appeal to fans of both. With the second album, they moved more into the 70's direction, honing-up their instrumental prowess; there are blistering guitar attacks, and brilliant, dynamic synth interludes that will leave you wanting more. Unfortunately, the third album doesn't quite achieve the same level of interest, although it does have its moments. Overall, though, much of the sound (especially the vocal arrangements) on all three albums falls into that well regurgitated italian 70's feel (as with Iconoclasta, too), and while I would definitely say they are good, even great at times, I wouldn't call them classic: they're really not covering any uncharted territory.

Their latest Io il Tempo is one power break after another and sounds like a recap of progressive rock history. Ok, maybe you've heard it before, but it's the delivery, the vocal gyrations, the little pieces that sound like Tarkus that keep your interest. Maybe English is just a boring language to sing, but I marvel at what the Italians can do with vocals. Recommended: Dopo L'Infinito or Io il Tempo.

Dopo L'Infinito is the second release by Nuova Era, an 80s Italian band whose music hearkened back to the previous decade, when Italian prog rock was at its peak. Most reviewers have placed Nuova Era at the top of the new bands seeking to revive that musical age. This release consists of two side-long (LP-speak) tracks that go through melodic turns that range from the tranquil to the symphonic, underpinned by keyboard and piano melodies. The vocals are in Italian, and add to the appeal of the music, more so for those who have been exposed to Italian prog rock bands from the seventies. Io E Il Tempo, is a new release, whose compositions are faithful to seventies prog rock, grandiose, symphonic and melodic, with a healthy dose of the Hammond organ!

I've had Dopo L'Infinito for a long time but it finally hit me recently. There's much more than meets the ear on this release from a modern Italian band. At first the guitarist just seems to be hitting power chords in the background while the keyboardist overlays repeat/modify/repeat melodies (not unlike Marillion's Mark Kelly though more diverse and complex). As I listened more closely I noticed that when the guitarist wasn't doing the metal-like rythyms, he was playing a neat counterpoint to the keyboardist. Once I heard this, they got my full attention! A very interesting mix - the guitar either is simple or in counterpoint to the keys, which tend to be the most virtuistic instrument. The drummer plays decent chops during verses but ends each with interesting fills. The bass is sort of buried in the mix. The album is mostly instrumental, but when the vocalist sings he really stands out. He has a strong, clear voice, which is my favorite kind. He has good range and can hold a note for a while. Beats the hell out of your average prog rock vocalist, which IMHO isn't too good. I really like this recording. The overall feel of the sound is a heavy metal with keyboards, but there is much more to it than just that. One of the best recent progressive offerings. After a long break, they're back with a new album, Io e Il Tempo. My initial impression was largely positive, mainly because Io e Il Tempo reminded me a lot of Dopo L'infinito. While I was disappointed that their style hadn't improved (am I the only one who insists that bands get better with every release?) I would have been satisfied with another album of Dopo L'inifito's quality (after all, they were my fave new Italian band...) But upon several listening, Io e Il Tempo falls short of my expectations, Dopo L'inifito, and the quality of progressive music I'm listening to today. Granted, this album has some very good moments, but overall their style is old, the playing not complex enough and the fantasy/sci-fi image an bit tiresome. Taking the "two 20 minute song" approach again was a mistake. While I enjoy the long pieces as much as anyone, Nuova Era has fallen into the same trap that Yes did with Tales from Topographic Oceans - stretching 12-15 minute ideas into 20-minute-plus pieces of music. But hey - if you really like the 70's emphasis on thick keyboards that much, hearing this album might not be a bad idea. Nuova Era still has one of the best vocalists in the business, not to mention a well rounded band. But with all this potential, they still fall short. Overall the music is very linear. One guy solos, then the next, back and forth, yet very little counterpoint or interplay. The music is simple for the most part, something you would expect to be written in a month or two, not a 2 1/2 year hiatus. Sure, they'll charm you with flashy solos and smooth harmonies, but nothing they do is all that complex. In fact, they could improve it a lot if it wasn't as repetitive (thus decreasing the length). Though I'm sure I'll find myself putting this one on every so often, I'm still disappointed. This band is capable of much more. They sound stuck in a rut - a serious case of Djam Karet/Dream Theater syndrome - incredible potential, mediocre delivery.

Nuova Era are a quartet of keyboards, guitar, drums and bass. A fifth "member" is credited with writing lyrics on both albums. I have their first two albums, L'Ultimo Viaggio ("The Ultimate Trip") and Dopo L'Infinito ("After the Infinite"). L'Ultimo Viaggio, a conceptual album, is an excellent debut for this talented Italian band. The seven songs, ranging from three to twelve minutes, flow together and show many excellent and original ideas. The sound is closest in style to the traditional '70s Italian bands though sounding like none in particular. On occasion, however, the guitar tone and style is much more contemporary. This combination prevents the band from having a completely "retro" feel. As good as L'Ultimo Viaggio is, the monster is Dopo L'Infinito which consists of two songs, each lasting greater than 20 minutes. The music itself is fantastic. Like all excellent 20 minute suites the music is complex, dynamic and constantly shifts through many different time signatures and key changes. The keyboard work on both albums is particularly worthy of note. Walter Pini has a masterful and deft touch. He knows when to play soft and behind the music or when to jump to the fore with a searing lead. Outstanding! Not to be out done, guitarist Alex Camaiti plays blazing leads and tasty chord work. All four members interact and feed off of each other, which is important to quality Prog. Of course, like all good Italian prog, the lyrics are in Italian. And also like most Italian prog, the vocals are *not* harsh--in fact they are very smooth and strong. One of the best new bands of the 1990s, Nuova Era are highly recommended.

Since '92 the band had some changes. The guitarist/vocalist Alex Camaiti left and the band replace him only with a vocalist (Claudio Guerrini, editor of a italian fanzine "Canto di Prog"). The sound of Il Passo del Soldato is quite different from past, with the absolute leadership of keyboard (Attention! the sound is not tedious). This evolution and the absence of guitar took the sound in a dark range, very close to Le Orme and early Banco (especially for the vocals). Brillant! -- Riccardo Deidda.

Excellent Italian band dominated by the compositions and keyboards of very intense keyboardist Walter Pini. His flamboyant style, classical influences and generous use of Hammond organ necessarily bring to mind Keith Emerson at its best. The band also includes an energetic rhythm section (bass and drums) and a very expressive singer (in Italian). The sound of Il Passo del Soldato is rich and modern but the arrangements are influenced by the '70s classics. A grandiose presentation, explosive energy and an Italian touch will grab you instantly. -- Paul Charbonneau

Click here for Nuovo Era web site (in Italian!)


Nuova Idea [Italy]
Updated 2/28/01

Discography
In The Beginning (71)
Mr. E. Jones (72)
Clowns (73)
Reviews
Parallel to New Trolls and Osanna their first album has been reissued In The Beginning. This Italian classical rock album includes a 20 minute cut.
The first album is in the style of New Trolls, but the best one is the last one with the great voice of Ricky Belloni. When the band split, Paolo Siani (drums, vocals) went to play in Opus Avantra.
I have the Clowns album. Excellent and typical progressive Italian prog from the 70's. Has 2 singers and one of them screams more than he sings. However, the music is so good that I kept the album. -- Jean-François Cousin
Links
[See Katharsis | Opus Avantra]


Nurse With Wound [UK]
Updated 5/20/09

Discography
Nurse With Wound's gargantuan discography is too huge to list here.
Click here to see the discography on their web site, including albums from related artists.
Reviews
Generally horribly unpleasant for the new listner and beautifully unpleasant for the enthusiast. This is textural music for the adventurous who like suprises and invention. Lots of harmonic distortion, noise, quiet passages, samples and spoken parts, NWW are a place to go when you've had enough of the real world for a while. I'd recommend Soliloquy For Lilith or Rock 'n' Roll Station for starters as these are much more gentle on the ears than most. The former is a fantastic dark ambient collection of 6 pieces (2CD or 3LP) while the latter is a strange ambient dub type of thing ... percussive and even catchy! Great nonetheless. Other high points include Thunder Perfect Mind which is brilliant but a little intense for the uninitiated. Large Ladies With Cake in the Oven is a superb compilation of diverse material as an introduction to the more experimental side of NWW. There's a lot of space in most NWW stuff and some very quiet bits so listen in silence. Basically, probably the premier experimental outfit in the world who have been at the vanguard of industrial/experimental music for 15 years. You'd be mad not to try at least some.
NWW, which is mostly Steven Stapleton, has created some of the strangest records of experimental electronic music (or some might say, non-music). From the furious distorted feedback noise of 150 Murderous Passions (think of a far more aggressive version of Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music), to the creaks separated by long stretches of silence (A Missing Sense), to the icy ambience on parts of Thunder Perfect Mind and Acts of Senseless Beauty, NWW's many releases are unpredictable to the extreme, especially when there's so many of them.

Here are some good places to start:

  • Sylvia and Babs contains sidelong tracks of clever cut-up collage work that is more humorous than much of NWW's work.
  • Automating I and Automating II contain a lot of variety of material, mostly 3 pieces to a side (on the vinyl version) which is the perfect length for the NWW novice, and most of it's interesting.
  • Crumb Duck, (which has a lot more NWW than Stereolab on it) especially the krautrock-inspired burn-up "The Wonderful Wooden Reason" (title taken from lyrics from the first Faust album) with its intense beat and weird guitar sounds that has far more rhythmic energy than a lot of NWW.
  • Large Ladies With Cakes In the Oven which compiles three very good EPs, the highlights being the demented circus music of "Odd" and the track "Brained" where Clint Ruin rants insanely over that long track from Brainticket's first album.
  • Who Can I Turn To Stereo (1996) With a dozen songs segued together as one piece, this is more accessible (if anything by NWW can be considered as such), with some more rhythmic stuff as well as plenty of weird sounds and voices.
  • Swinging Reflective (1998) A 2-CD compilation of various tracks with other artists, everyone from Current 93 and Legendary Pink Dots to Tiny Tim. Some of it is more accessible and many of the tracks are quite different mixes than the originals.
-- Rolf Semprebon
Links
[See Stapleton, Steven | Rogerson, Diana | Gyllensköld, Geijerstam and Friends | Current 93]

Click here for Nurse With Wound's web site


Nyl [France]
Updated 7/29/11

Discography
Nyl (76, 2011 reissue on CD including bonus tracks and additional artwork)
Reviews
On Richard Pinhas' Urus label and featuring Magma's Jannick Top in a supporting role, but it doesn't really live up to the high expectations. At least not what I heard of it, which didn't sound particularly progressive at all and went in one ear and straight out the other. -- Mike Ohman
Updated 2/28/01:
Jannick Top from Magma plays on this one. More psychedelic than progressive. -- Jean-François Cousin
Updated 7/29/11:
Psych Up Melodies, a small Italian record label, is reissuing Nyl on CD with a number of bonus cuts taken from alternate studio takes and live recorded material. Despite the lackluster reviews above, I rather liked the album, though they're right when they say it's more psych than prog. The first cut, "Nyl", especially reminds me of early Gong or Clearlight while the other cuts are less proggy. But this album's worth it for the first cut alone, and the others aren't so bad. -- Fred Trafton
Links
[See Magma]

Click here to order Nyl from Psych Up Melodies


Nyman, Michael [UK]

The Draughtsman's Contract (82), A Zed and Two Noughts (85), Drowning by Numbers (88), The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, Her Lover (89), Prospero's Books (91), The Michael Nyman Songbook (91), The Piano (93), others?

The man who coined the term "minimalism" in the late sixties, though his work is deconstructionalist rather than minimalist. He does bear some comparison to the so-called "minimalists" -- there is an element of repetition in his work; like Steve Reich he continually adds layer on top of layer (though he doesn't approagh the rhythmical complexity of Reich); like Philip Glass, his work is melodically based, in contrast to the serialist movement which predated it. Became known for his soundtracks to the Peter Greenaway films: The Draughtsman's Contract, A Zed and Two Noughts, Drowning by Numbers, The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, her Lover and Prospero's Books. All these are excellent. The Draughtsman's Contract uses themes from Purcell and Drowning By Numbers is based upon Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for violin and viola (a great piece of music, by the way), though they are both uniquely Nyman. The Nyman-Greenaway partnership seems now to have ended, Nyman having been unhappy with the electronic sound effects added by Greenaway to the music in Prospero's Books. The Greenaway film music can be quite abrasive, orchestrated using unusual combinations of instruments. At the risk of not doing it justice, a Nyman piece, especially one from Draughtsman's... or Zed..., might be driven by a relentless 4/4 beat, with chord changes every few bars reminiscent of baroque music, with music gradually layered over the top of this as the theme develops. The type of music that is just born to be used with a long tracking shot. Thgre are some remarkable sounds to be heard, such as the violins in A Zed and Two Noughts mimicking insects. The music works brilliantly as a soundtrack, and is also well worth listening to on its own. If I were to recommend one, it would be Prospero's Books. (Note that the music to tie Greenaway film Belly of an Architect is not Nyman, it is written by Wim Mertens -- and doesn't stand up as well on its own). The Cook... and Prospero's Books are interesting in that they feature music for film performed IN the film, an idea which Nyman pursued to a greater, if not full, extent when he wrote the soundtrack to the art-for-the-masses movie The Piano, which takes Scottish folk music as its base. It is more romantic than his Greenaway soundtracks, and for the progressive music listener probably less palatable. There are numerous other works out, including The Michael Nyman Songbook, which is excellent and features the sublime vocals of Ute Lemper. Nyman tours with "The Michael Nyman Band," the current lineup being made up of saxes, violins, viola, piano, bass guitar. -- David Wren