Suffer and Misery (82)
Mainstream prog in the vein of Camel, Genesis and Yes.
Thee Image (75), Inside The Triangle (76)
Ex-Iron Butterfly on ELP's Manticore label.
No More Rhymes But Mr. Brainstorm (93)
Theatre's only album (as far as I know) is depressingly representative of the standardisation
and lack of innovation in the neo-progressive rock scene of the early-1990s. No More Rhymes
But Mr. Brainstorm (Mellow Records MMP 177) exhibits its influences openly from the word go:
Genesis, or rather the second-hand, streamlined version filtered through
Marillion's, and, to a lesser extent, IQ's
more pop-friendly matrix. Precise, uncomplicated rhythms accompany domineering vocal sections,
which are at predictable points interrupted by Steve Rothery-styled guitar solos or synth solos
mining Tony Banks' whirly fanfare approach in the way of Mark
Kelly and number of other later-day keyboard acolytes; even the tinkly twelve-string guitar sound
appears to haunt the music's softer spaces. The carefully polished production unfortunately
irons out most of the edges and nuances (especially from the guitar) and does little to
compensate for the lack of originality; in fact the playing and the sound are pretty
perfunctory, even if the keyboard arsenal includes, uncharacteristically for 1993, a real
Mellotron, whose presence may excite those who shun any electronic keyboard that weighs less
than a baby hippopotamus and does not automatically go out of tune if the temperature
fluctuates more than one degree centigrade.
It would not be fair to completely write off Theatre, however. Their melodic writing is often quite good, at least compared to many wanna-be-Marillions clawing for their twenty-one seconds in the limelight at the time, and on the 13-minute "Diddle Riddle (Mr. Brainstorm in the middle)" there is actually some genuinely engaging musical development and effective performances. The other long track, "Black Bride" / "Little Princess", even has some amusingly over-dramatic, faux-gothic vocal and musical stylings that add interest to an otherwise typically Marillionesque track. Theatre's lead vocalist and main writer Ricky Tonko is the band's final distinguishing point: while he obviously has studied Gabrielics, his smoother tone and penchant for voice-altering dramatics sets him apart from the crowd of carbon-copy Gabriels and Xeroxed Fishes; unfortunately, too often this can also result in mumbling, imprecise performances that undermine his good intentions (I can't help thinking that he would also benefit from singing in his native language, as the final track "La Maschera", an Italian version of the opener "The Lie", seems to be much more comfortable for him to sing). Tonko would give a much stronger performance both as a singer and a lyricist three years later on Moongarden's superior Brainstorm of Emptyness (notice a theme here?), which fans of this style would be advised to seek out instead of Theatre's disc. This is just one of those releases that has nothing fundamentally wrong about them, expect that they are blatantly predictable to anyone with reasonable exposure to the neo-prog sub-genre. -- Kai Karmanheimo
Seeds of the Dream (00)
Theta Live at "The Live Station" in 1999. This is the best photo of them I can find.
Seeds of the Dream (Musea FGBG 4332.AR) readily brings to mind the delicate, Renaissance-influenced sound of Vermilion Sands' only album Water Blue from over a decade earlier. This is not surprising, as Theta is fronted by Vermilion Sands' versatile vocalist Yoko Royama and also has ample guest contributions from their keyboard player Masahiro Yamada (just as large, in fact, as the band's permanent keyboardist, Yuko Tsuchiya). The rest of the band comprises bassist Kazuhito Kawakami and drummer Naoyuki Harada, but many songs also have guests Junko Minobe (Azoth, Cinderella Search, Un Known) and Akihisa Tsuboy (KBB) beautifully mingling real violins with the typical synthesizer stringpads.
Soft, mellow and pretty are the words to describe this music: it is metrically uncomplicated, melodically opulent and texturally ornate symphonic rock which flows between Royama's fragile but winsome voice and never too heavy or complex instrumental sections. Lightness can also be attributed to sparsity of the six-string: the simple but sonorous Latimer-like solo pitted against Royama's Ian McDonaldish flute on the "Ice"-like instrumental "Afterglow", and the eighties-style power guitar that ushers in the driving, symphonic middle section of "The Toy-Airplane" are the main showcases for the instrument and in both cases prop up the proceedings. Some tracks have a folky feel mixed with Tsuchiya's slightly jazzy digital piano a'la early-Renaissance, while tracks like "IZUMI: from the dark side..." extend it with a lofty synthesized orchestration and waltzy classical feel towards the Annie Haslam-era sound, yet with a less heavy-handed touch inherited from Vermilion Sands.
This very Japanese-style flair for prettiness can also get dangerously close to mawkish preciousness, especially in the lyrics full of moratory childhood nostalgia (some sung in Japanese, some in Japanese masquerading as English). Yet Royama's voice, when she is not trying to push her thin upper register needlessly, the strength of the melodies and the uncluttered but rich elegance of the arrangements mainly overcomes such failings. For those with a taste for the elegant Japanese symphonic sound Seeds of the Dream offers quite probably the purest and most exquisite example in the last ten years. Those looking for instrumental dexterity, bombast and high-energy rock should instead try Lost and Found, the debut release by Tsuboy's own group KBB. -- Kai Karmanheimo
|Links||[See Azoth | Cinderella Search | KBB | Un Known | Vermilion Sands]|
Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rever Tout Le Temps (79)
Mais On Ne Peut Pas Rever Tout Le Temps is an all-instrumental work by the French artist, who combines the rhythm and symphonic style of Magma with a more refined approach, resulting in a work that alternates between quiet passages a la Asia Minor and the like, to full interludes with energetic percussion and chants that invoke the memory of Magma. This was originally released in 1979, and displayed a variety of musical influences from around the world, including Arabia, India, and Africa mingled with natural sounds, reminding at times of the Eno/Byrne collaboration, My Life In The Bush Of Ghosts.
Thibault was the original bassist in Magma (pre-recordings) and later became their producer, as well as several other artists on the Theleme and Egg labels. He released one solo album in 1979, which might be described as Mike Oldfield meets Weidorje, or a folk-oriented variation on the Magma zeuhl sound. It features other ex-Magma alumni Lionel Ledissez, Francis Moze and Richard Raux, as well as the ex-Transit Express violinist David Rose, and many others. This album is essential, possibly one of the best albums to ever come out of the French zeuhl school. The 13 minute opening track "Oree," featuring vocals by Amanda Parsons, is worth the cost of the disc by itself.
Laurent Thibault, producer, sound engineer, and Magma's first bass player, composed and recorded this solo album in 1978. He called on his musician friends to assemble an impressive group: Francis Moze (ex-Magma and Gong) on bass, Dominique Bouvier (ex-Transit Express and Rose) on drums, Amanda Parsons (ex-Hatfield and the North) and Lisa Bois (ex-Magma) on vocals, David Rose on violin, Jacqueline Thibault (his wife) on keyboards, Lionel Ledissez (ex-Ergo Sum) on vocals, and Richard Raux (ex-Magma) on sax. This concept album was Thibault's musical interpretation of Douanier Rousseau's paintings contrasting dreams with reality. The music ranges from beautiful bucolic passages ("Oree") to aggressive Magma-like sonic barrages on the title track. Yet certain musical themes repeat throughout, interspersed with various ethnic musics. A delightful musical suite! An excellent feature provided by Musea is the CD indexing that allows you to zero in on a specific passage within each of the four pieces. Again, as is usual with Musea reissues, there is an extensive 14 page booklet with history and photos. In this case, because of Thibault's musical career, you also receive a slice of Magma history. My only gripe is that at roughly 31 minutes the CD is JUST TOO SHORT! More of Thibault's music would have been great, but would no doubt disturb the flow and ambience of the album.
Thibault's single solo album is an album of beauty, both in subtlety and energy. The album draws from a variety of sources, including folk, Magma's zuehl style, and Arabic and East Indian song styles. Moods range from quiet pastoral passages to intense doses of raging, Magma-like fusion. The thirteen minute opening track, "Oree," features the clear, sweet, wordless soprano of Amanda Parsons (from National Health) who is my favorite female vocalist. The music is a rich blend of acoustic guitars, basses, percussion, saxophones, vocals, violins, natural sounds (birds, ocean, many other animals) and many other sonic textures. Easily, this album is some of the most inventive music to come from France's zuehl scene, or from anywhere else for that matter. The only "flaw" with the album is its 31 minute length. Still, in all, this is must-hear album. Highly recommended!
The Water Road (08)
Thieves' Kitchen - Phil Mercy (guitars), Wolfgang Kindl (keyboards, backing
vocals), Mark Robotham (drums), Amy Darby (vocals) and Andy Bonham (bass)
Thieves' Kitchen's first release called Head arrived in the year 2000. Their enjoyable music is a mix between Cross, Dream Theater, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Gentle Giant, Happy The Man, hard rock, metal, fusion, Kansas, King Crimson, Manticore, Neo-Prog, Van Der Graaf Generator and Yes. This independently released album has a complex rhythm section, skilled musicians, great lengthy compositions and a good production. The vocals are accessible and provide the calm to the underlining musical dynamics containing tension and release arrangements. The guitar player Phil Mercy is a real guitar maestro with precision leads and burning runs, a real treat. The keyboards provide the symphonics with synth, organ, some mellotron and piano. The highlights are the 16 minutes opener "Mute", "The Return Of The Ultragravy" and the closing 20 minutes track "T.A.N.U.S.". All in all it's a very strong debut album from a band I hope we'll be hearing more from in the future.
The second Thieves' Kitchen release is called Argot released in '01. This is the first listen I had of the band which possessed me to immediately order their other 2 releases. There are 4 long tracks on this, plenty of mind blowing intense jamming with some hard driving, King Crimson tension frenzy, alternating with plenty of off-beats, odd timing's ala Gentle Giant with Gary Green type "circling" guitar leads drenched in ELP Tarkus style organ. The bass and drums masterfully maintain the complex rhythm arrangements. Throw in some nice piano, electric and synth, melodic guitar sections, unique bass leads, beautiful changing melodies and you'll realize this is one stop shopping folks, Thieves' Kitchen has served up hot prog earfood that will satisfy and expand your music horizon with every listen.
Concerning the latest release, from '03, called Shibboleth, one of it's quite obvious features is that it sounds quite different from Argot, the previous release, and not only because vocals are provided by a woman now, Amy Darby. In fact what Thieve's Kitchen is presenting here is a hybrid of Symphonic Progressive and Jazz-Fusion much in the Canterbury vein and it worked out excellent. They did not change much in regards of track length, three of the six songs are clocking between 12 and 23 minutes. Unlike most of contemporary Prog bands this one doesn’t have a very clear and obvious connection to 70’s Prog. In some parts bands like Hatfield and the North, U.K. or Happy The Man might come to one's mind but the similarities are really not striking. Instead their music is so much extraordinary, often even groundbreaking and they really created their own style. Amy's vocals are really awesome, quite laid back and are a nice balance to the often very quirky music.
The first three tracks are presenting the mentioned "Symphonic Jazz-Fusion" style in a very pure form. But apart from jazzy sections there are as well parts of excellent keyboards and guitar play like the middle one of "The Picture Slave". And every now and then there is Mellotron present like in "De Profundis" which fits together in a wonderful way with the jazzy style. The very proggy "Cardinal Red" has intricate synth lines and orchestrations plus awesome guitar solos by excellent guitarist Phil Mercy. Rhythm section by Andy Bonham and Mark Robotham is of a very high level as well. "Spiral Bound", the shortest track is a very quiet and mellow song featuring mainly nice piano by Wolfgang Kindl and Amy's wonderful vocals. Last two tracks "Chovihani Rise" and "Surface Tension" contain in addition some heavy Progmetal-like elements. The very long "Chovihani Rise" actually consists of two songs, one at the beginning and the end, the other in the middle and has plenty of Mellotron and melodic guitar sections and the complex interaction between all instruments is just amazing. "Surface Tension" is even heavier with rough guitar riffs, evil sounding Mellotron and symphonic synths.
Thieves' Kitchen 2008 - Phil Mercy (guitars), Mark Robotham (drums),
Amy Darby (vocals), Andy Bonham (bass) and Thomas Johnson (keyboards)
This is actually my second attempt at a review for the new Thieves' Kitchen album The Water Road. My first attempt was such an extreme helping of fanboy gush that I thought nobody would even be able to take it seriously. I needed to give it a rest and get some perspective, calm down a bit, and try it again. Now I think I'm ready.
Holy crap! This is the best f**king album I've ever heard!
Ahem ... breathe deeply ... one more time ...
I've never heard any of Thieves' Kitchen's earlier efforts, but I've heard others say that The Water Road is a bit of a departure for them, particularly from their first two albums. Part of this is doubtless due to the inclusion of former Änglagård keyman Thomas Johnson in their latest line-up (Änglagård's Anna Holmgren also provided some flute, but isn't a full band member), who also co-penned many the songs on the album with founding member Phil Mercy (guitars).
All kidding aside, this is one of the best prog albums I've ever heard. I'll use one of those prog reviewer clichés and say, "This is what progressive is supposed to be", meaning it's not trying to sound like anyone else, but be something truly unique. In spite of this, there are some similarities to the sound of various Canterbury bands, particularly to National Health (due to some of the odd melodic constructions) and to Hatfield and the North's "Northettes" or Stewart and Gaskin's "adult pop" offerings (because of vocalist Amy Darby's vocal harmonies). Some of it actually borders on RIO because of the oddball harmonies and uncountable meters, but this music is always very "pretty", never stepping into dissonance or jarring explosions of racket. About the only non-melodic things I noticed are the gentle rainstorm that starts and ends "The Water Road" and a bit of barely-melodic Theremin which takes a brief "solo" in one part. I should also mention, for those of you who are fans, that this album fairly drips with epic Mellotron passages.
"The Long Fianchetto" is the album's opener, and at about 22 minutes in length, can stand alongside any of the best "side long" opuses of the prog greats including "Close to the Edge", "Tarkus" or "Supper's Ready" without sounding the slightest bit like any of them ... with the exception of a single Steve Howe inspired guitar arpeggio during the climactic ending of the song. Another standout song is "Om Tare", which can only be described as fusion, actually bringing Weather Report to mind on occasion only to have the illusion shattered when Darby starts singing. Finally, the title cut "The Water Road" weaves soft, almost folksy rock with harder-edged sections seamlessly, and has several beautiful themes that are revisited with different moods as the song progresses. There isn't a less than excellent piece on the album, and several are truly exceptional.
Aside from the brilliant guitar, keyboard and vocal parts, which I have already mentioned, I would be remiss if I didn't mention Mark Robotham's drums and Andy Bonham's bass. To be honest, I don't usually notice a band's rhythm section, which is fine with me as long as they don't get in the way of the guitar, keyboards and vocals. But in Thieves' Kitchen, the interplay between the rhythm section and all the other instruments is up to the high-energy musicianship level of, say, Rush's Peart and Lee, though stylistically more like Gentle Giant than Rush. That probably doesn't tell you much ... so let's just say they're damn good and leave it at that*.
The Water Road is very melodic and harmonious, yet also strange and difficult (in a good way). This album is being independently released by the band. A friend who also happens to head a progressive rock record label said to me, "I'm afraid a self released title isn't going to sell many no matter what, but I wish them the best." Prove him wrong! You need to order this album from the band now! Don't expect to "get it" on the first listen! This is one of those albums that doesn't start to "sink in" until the third or fourth listening, and then you'll be glad you gave it a chance. Absolutely essential listening! And don't expect MP3 downloads to do the album justice ... this music is too dynamic to be effectively compressed to MP3 format. Order the CD! -- Fred Trafton
* Hey, I just saw Rush in concert for the second time in less than a year, so give me a break! I've got Peart and Lee on the brain at the moment.
In addition, Phil says in the NEWS section of their web site, "Two years down the line (is it really that long?) it's clear that The Water Road has been the most successful TK release to date. We sold more albums, to more areas of the world, and received more critical acclaim for TWR than any previous release. Also of note is that the album is still selling two years later which suggests that, not only are people buying it and liking it, but that they are recommending it to their friends also." To my friend who predicted doom (see last paragraph of the above entry), I'm very happy he was proved wrong! The Water Road was spectacular, and I'm glad the prog rock community thought so too, and voted with their dollars. I'm looking forward to the next one. -- Fred Trafton
[See Änglagård |
Grey Lady Down]
A Thinking Plague (84)
In This Life (89)
In Extremis (98)
Early Plague Years (00, A Thinking Plague and Moonsongs together on one CD)
A History of Madness (03)
Upon Both Your Houses (04, Live at NEARFest 2000)
Probably the weirdest new progressive band around, US ensemble Thinking Plague are one of those bands, which makes your neighbors and relatives scream "This is out of tune" while you are trying to enjoy it. Definitely unconventional (as Recommended bands tend to be,) I can't really compare them to anyone, but if music in the vein of the Art Bears, Slapp Happy, or Henry Cow takes your fancy, you may like this. In This Life is highly recommended.
|Although In This Life was released on a UK label, Thinking Plague are a US band. The CD packaging typifies punk music, with hand-scrawled layout and roughly sketched drawings. Sitting on a shelf in a record store, the cover doesn't scream "Progressive Rock!" However, the music is one of the stronger examples of the modern progressive genre. Imagine what would happen if Dead Can Dance, the Cocteau Twins, and the Art Bears joined forces and tried to sound like Iconoclasta. This 70 minute disc captures a unique style that is about as reminiscent of Iconoclasta as that band is of Lamb-era Genesis. The guitar riffs have that unstructed, sloppy approach and the vocals remind me of Dagmar Krause at her best (or, as some might say, her worst). Actually, they are a hell of a lot more palatable than Dagmar ever was. One of the things I appreciate about this band's technique is that everyone pulls their weight. There are no virtuosos, no show offs. But the way that multiple guitar lines flow and intermesh with a tight, busy rhythm section show compositional insight. No plodding bass lines or drummer BOOM-BAPping his way to putting you to sleep. But don't run out just yet - this is pretty far from mainstream progressive music - Thinking Plague falls into the "progressively weird" category, but in a way no one has before. Keeping all this in mind, I give In This Life a resounding two thumbs up.|
|In This Life contains two tracks, "Moonsongs" and "Possessed" (both fantastic, with two different female vocalists), from the first two albums. "Audion" magazine refer to them as "a modern day Art Bears." I think this is pretty accurate. The guitar sounds uncannily Fred Frith-like in places. A really great release but not for those who don't like way-out RIO.|
I have three Thinking Plague CD's, and they are by far my favorite of the
so-called "RIO-styled" bands [well, I theoretically
like Henry Cow too, but I haven't had the patience
to actually listen to any for years now]. That's at least
partially because they're one of the first of this genre I got into after renewing
my love of progressive rock with new bands when I first found out about
the GEPR, but (obviously) before I took it over as editor. The first two
I ordered were In This Life and In Extremis, and I have recently
received a promo of A History of Madness as well.
Thinking Plague started out as a series of "basement recording experiments" by Mike Johnson and Bob Drake in the early 80's. Their first release, an LP released in 1984, was A Thinking Plague and was on their own label with only 500 copies pressed. Moonsongs was released on cassette originally, but then on LP the following year. Between the first and second albums, they added singer Suzanne Lewis, keyboardist Eric Moon and drummer Mark McCoin. These two albums were subsequently remastered and released together on CD as The Early Plague Years.
In This Life keeps Drake, Johnson and Lewis from the previous album and adds other "guest" musicians, including Fred Frith on guitar, as needed. This is the earliest album I have, and is the most "difficult" to my ears. RIO-styled in a typical ReR way, it will appeal to fans of Henry Cow, Art Bears and their cousins, offshoots and progeny. If this was the last album they ever did, I could call it their masterpiece ... but they went on to do even better, so in spite of this album's excellence, I have to rate it the lowest of the three I have.
In Extremis changes line-ups once again. 5uu's Dave Kerman is the drummer on this album, but his 5uu's bandmate Bob Drake seems to be backing off from Thinking Plague and doesn't even list In Extremis on his discography on his web site. Mike Johnson pens most of the songs on this album. But among the more noticable changes is Deborah Perry replacing Suzanne Lewis on vocals. Her voice sounds very "classically trained soprano" in style and timbre.
I first experienced In Extremis through one song on a Cuneiform sampler CD. When I found myself singing this bizarre stuff in my head ("... moisture for spiders now ..."), I knew I had to hear the whole album. And I wasn't disappointed. You still have to call this album "RIO-styled", but there's also a lot of melodic content that seems to coexist naturally with the strangeness, sometimes even reminding me of Gentle Giant at their most raucous (i.e. The Power and the Glory). It feels as if Thinking Plague is really pulling away from trying to be "rock" with this album and heading into "modern classical" waters. Perry's voice in particular adds to this impression, and also instrumentals are very counterpoint oriented. Still, the guitars and drums make it rock, though in the most intellectual sort of way. In Extremis is powerful, strange, amelodic, harmonious, breathtakingly beautiful and totally compelling all at once. Again, if Thinking Plague had stopped here, it would be their triumphant masterwork. But they didn't ...
A History of Madness is Thinking Plague's most recent studio release. It continues to make progress in a similar direction as before ... towards more of a neo-classical, serious sound and further from rock. Mike Johnson is the leader on this release and Drake has abandoned the band. Dave Kerman is still percussing on a couple of tracks, but most of the drums are handled by former Sleepytime Gorilla Museum drummer David Shamrock. A History of Madness is none the worse for the line-up changes -- if anything, it is even more professional and well-crafted than In Extremis, albeit darker and with less in the way of "catchy melodies". The overall tone is heavily symphonic with many sound textures intertwining or battling each other in every song. Dissonant cacaphonies resolve into beautiful or sad harmonies and then decay again into chaos, all the time with Deborah Perry's clear, operatic voice singing strange songs of life and death, hope, fear and apathy and evoking other feelings too strange to even fully comprehend. A History of Madness is for those who pride themselves to be intellectuals, not for someone who wants music that goes off into the background while house cleaning or driving. This music demands attention. As an unabashed liberal intellectual lover of puzzling complexity, I love this! (I also seem to have multiple personalities ... see my review of Forever Einstein's Racket Science for a different personality talking.)
If you're the type who's unfazed by "RIO-styled" music then A History of Madness might be their best album to date. If you're more of a symphonic prog fan and wonder what all the fuss over Henry Cow is about, In Extremis might be more to your liking. Mike Johnson tells me he's looking for another vocalist for the next Thinking Plague album ... not to replace Deborah Perry, but to sing with her so they can perform the vocal harmonies better live. If you know anybody (preferably in California's Bay area) who might be interested, let Mike know. I'm glad he's is still working on new material ... perhaps the next album will be better yet! Though that's hard to imagine. -- Fred Trafton
|I noticed A History of Madness wasn't covered here [it wasn't when David submitted this review ... it is now, see above. -Ed.] and I own it, so I figured why not have a go. Bold, disturbed, otherworldly, all these terms describe this CD. If Gabriel-era Genesis had all been sick with fever and decided to write and record a new album at the height of their hallucinatory delirium, it may have sounded like this. Or perhaps if 1973-era Crimson dropped acid with Univers Zero during an alien abduction ... you get the gist. But everyone who is interested in progressive music should appreciate if not indulge in a band with a willingness to push past what has come before; "Without deviation there can be no progress" (Frank Zappa). The compositional highlights are "Rapture of the Deep", "Marching As To War, No. 1", and "Lux Lucet". A strange and delicate blend is achieved by all the instruments (piano, bass, guitar, drums, winds and some synths), and I even like Deborah Perry's bizarre singing. Not for the faint of heart or underdeveloped palette, Thinking Plague's unnerving repast is the stinky cheese of modern progressive rock. -- David Marshall|
[See Drake, Robert |
Frith, Fred |
Hamster Theater |
Shamrock, David |
Sleepytime Gorilla Museum]
Click here for Thinking Plague's web site
Third Ear Band (70)
Music From Macbeth (72)
New Forcasts From the Third Ear Almanac (89)
Live Ghosts (89)
Brain Waves (90)
Music Magic (90)
|Neo-prog fans stop here. You thought Univers Zero was weird and dissonant? Try these guys, which were the earliest ensemble of chamber/rock/ragas around. Reformed recently, Third Eard Band were basically oboes, percussion, and other odd instruments that made unique and highly innovative music that definitely resembeled Indian ragas. Not for the timid, Alchemy, Third Ear Band and the soundtrack to Roman Polanski's "Macbeth" all come highly recommended to the explorative.|
|Unusual late sixties-early seventies band. I have Alchemy and it is sympathetic mixture of raga sounds, chamber music, progressive folk and 60's psych. It is not dark by any means, at least not to my ears. As said, chamber music is in the mix, most prominently with sound of oboe and strings, but it is not essential feature. Raga is much more important here and therefore results are rather spiritual in nature, but this outcoming spiritualism is indeed awe-inspiring. I have traced similar effect on the Gordian Knot's debut, although not that screaming. Interesting enough, folk and psych elements do not cause a dated sound on the recording, so it sounds quite fresh even nowadays. Certain parallels between TEB and early Univers Zero could be drawn, but as mentioned TEB have none of Bartok's portentousness, Stravinsky's playfulness or Schonberg's austerity. Other recordings such as Macbeth may be a bit darker, while their newer output may have proved to be more feathery and psyched out. Recommeindded!!! -- Nenad Kobal|
Thirsty Moon (72), You'll Never Come Back (73), Blitz (75), A Real Good Time (76), Starchaser (81)
Another superb German jazz rock band, that were quite innovative. Becoming quite hard to find, Thirsty Moon put out a series of albums in the seventies, of which the first two, Thirsty Moon and You'll Never Come Back are the best. Excellent and vital music.
I have their eponymous first album and the follow-up You'll Never Come Back. Both are excellent works that blend progressive and jazz elements with a touch of space and dissonance. Comparisons can be made to Secret Oyster circa Straight to the Krankenhaus. Lyrical saxophone or flute fights with heavy, sometimes blistering, electric guitar in a friendly war on a five song battlefield. (Each album has five songs.) The listener comes out the winner. These guys definitely put a new fresh twist on fusion. Original in the best way. English (I think) vocals are dispersed here and there. Highly recommended. -- Mike Taylor
I have their third album, Blitz. Interesting, as most Brain label bands are, but not essential. All-instrumental rock with heavy emphasis on guitars and percussion. "Lord Of Lightning" is a hard-rock song with crashing electric guitars and super-amplified harpsichord. "Rainbow" is an intriguing semi-improvisational piece in 9/4 with riveting guitar, cymbal splashes and atonal organ that somewhat resembles Soft Machine circa Volume Two. "The Jungle Of Your Mind" starts with a fascinating rhythmic pattern alternating bars of 8/4 and 7/4, but soon degenerates into a long percussion section that would be good if it weren't such a deadringer for Yes' "Ritual." Elsewhere they essay Führs and Fröhling-esque acoustelectronic music ("Magic Moon") and reggae ("Crickets Don't Cry"). -- Mike Ohman
Welcome, Humans (05)
Thirteen of Everything - Joe Funk (electric and
acoustic guitars, vocals), Thad Miller (keyboards, vocals), Mick Peters (Chapman
Stick, bass, acoustic guitar, vocals) and Ted Thomas (drums, percussion, vocals)
Thirteen of Everything is based in Austin, Texas. I first met Ted Thomas, Joe Funk and then-newcomer Thad Miller at Cattle Prog, where they were supposed to play until they lost their original keyboardist Patrick McFarland. But they came down to Dallas to catch Cattle Prog anyway (without Mick Peters who was out of town at the time). Shortly thereafter, I downloaded their 5-song demo and was blown away! I said then that "13oE's sound is complex, symphonic, tight and very professional. The sound quality is second to none (even on the MP3 downloads), and the music is really exciting. These five songs were recorded in home studios, but they sure don't sound like it!" Up until 2005, these were the only recordings available of 13oE, but now after lots of work and polishing, their first complete album Welcome, Humans has finally been released by Musea Records.
If you've heard the original demo recordings, you'll be both prepared for and surprised by the new album, because it features re-recordings all five of the demo songs, including the ones penned by the now-departed McFarland. But they now sound quite different. Part of this is due to new keyboardist Thad Miller (though it hardly seems fair to call him "new" since he's been with 13oE for nearly three years now) and partly because Thomas has traded in his V-Drums for an acoustic kit. But it's mostly different because they have elected to record these in a looser, more laid-back style. By this, I mean that the drums lay down steady rhythms and the rest of the band allow themselves to lead or lag around the drums rather than staying totally on beat. At first, I found this distracting, but only because of the very tight arrangements in the demos. After a couple of listenings, I've decided I like the re-recordings better. Ted tells me that this wasn't really intentional, but agrees that the new recordings do "breathe a bit more". However, I think they've undermixed guitarist Joe Funk in many places on the album. And that really means something coming from me (I'm a keyboardist, so I usually complain about the keyboards being too soft, not the guitar)!
But the centerpiece of the album is the last half, a 25-minute epic that the band debuted here in Dallas for their Ridglea Prog Nights gig (see The Underground Railroad's entry for more info on that). After hearing the just-completed piece with a few warts still on it played live, I told them, "when you finally get this recorded properly, it's going to be my new all-time favorite piece of music". Now that I've heard the final recording, I know I wasn't just stroking their egos. But I must say it's only my second all-time favorite, the first being Genesis' "Supper's Ready". The name of 13oE's epic? "Late for Dinner". Yes, I think the name similarity was deliberate. I don't know how a piece could be so reminiscent of a Genesis song without sounding all that Genesis-like. Well, Joe's guitar does frequently sound very Hackettish (Joe's E-Bow sounds a lot like Hackett's attack-suppressed sound), but other than that not much blatant Genesis sound. But the arrangement of the piece is quite similar, starting off with acoustic guitars with Mick and Ted's vocals singing in octaves. They then move on to the theme that gets played in multiple variations throughout the piece, and even the different sections are orchestrated similarly to "Supper's Ready" without stealing any of the actual musical material. But the subject matter isn't related to "Supper's Ready"'s apocalyptic interpretation. Closer to "Watcher of the Skies", actually, with themes about an alien takeover involving ... uh ... eating. I'm not sure who's eating who, but I think the aliens are coming out ahead of the game. You have to hear it to believe it. The main theme from "Late for Dinner" was already burned into my brain for all time when I heard the song live, and it's great to be able to listen to it any time I want to now (aside from a questionable "unreleased" live recording of the Ridglea performance ... maybe one day I'll make it available for download if the band isn't too appalled by it).
The sound of the band is what I call the "American Canterbury" sound (hey, do I get to make up my own genres now?), complex and strange but still containing beautiful and harmonic chords and progressions. They remind me somewhat of fellow Texas proggers The Underground Railroad or Phreeworld in their chord textures and progressions, though they don't use as much vocal harmony as Phreeworld. There's also some bits and pieces of Yes and Gentle Giant influence audible, and even an occasional few notes that might be called "Southern Rock", but the music isn't really derivative of anybody else. As is typical for complex prog, it takes several listens to start "getting it" due to the complexity of the compositions, but it's well worth the training period once you do "get it". I hope these guys are around for a long time. They've only begun to explore their vision of what "prog" is supposed to sound like. -- Fred Trafton
|Immensely talented and infectiously joyous American band who do very tight but not mechanical progressive rock. With a mix of down home quality and sophisticated sensibility, ToE can be both playful in a Zappa way and symphonic -- almost grand -- in a Genesis or Kansas way. Plus, I'm often disappointed with singers (for reasons I won't elucidate here) but these guys sound fine and they all seem to sing so, like a firing squad, no one man may be blamed. And who can ignore the dreadnought "Late for Dinner", a 26-minute epic and a real achievement for a small American band. -- David Marshall|
Click here for Thirteen
of Everything's web site
This Heat (79)
Health and Efficiency (80, EP)
Made Available: John Peel Sessions (96)
|Very weird Recommended type trio that put out two albums in the late '70s / early '80s that a lot of prog fans absolutely love. A little too "Post modern" for me, although they did some neat things at times. This Heat, Deceit.|
|Experimental rock. Excellent ideas well executed. Only two albums. The second called Deceit is more "catchy."|
|This Heat are a trio with Charles Bullen (guitar, clarinet, viola, voice, tapes, drums, etc), Charles Hayward [Quiet Sun - Ed.] (percussion, keyboards, voice, tapes, guitar, bass, etc.), and Gareth Williams (keyboards, guitar, bass, voice, tapes, etc). An excellent combination of improvisational and electronics, with some odd jagged rhythms that can at times be quite pounding, and lots of strange tape looping thrown in for good measure. The first album is very experimental and abstract, though quite noisy, and at times it achieves a gritty industrialism. Though it’s very good, there are some weak spots, like the three minutes of a barely audible tone at the end. Deceit is probably the place to start, as it is a more solid album, more cohesive. There’s even a hint of ethnic rhythms here and there, looped into the mix, as well as some crazier, noise spazz-outs, and it is quite unpredictable throughout. Repeat consists of three very, very long, very, very repetitive tracks of very repetitive minimalism of repetitive loops, and is probably my least favorite, though I suppose it is their most challenging. Made Available, recorded in 1977, is almost as good as the first two albums, and even contains different versions of three pieces that are on the debut album. Definitely recommended for those who like the edgier side of progressive. -- Rolf Semprebon|
|This Heat was mainly the project of Charles Hayward, drummer on the excellent Quiet Sun album Mainstream. He started in 1975, together with Charles Bullen and Gareth Williams, to develop a very unique music, with a lot of instruments, tapes and sounds. On all their releases you will find experimental music, some clear hints to Can ("Paperhats" on Deceit), industrial sounds ("Testcard" from their first), Haywards characteristic singing and his excellent drumming. One of their best tracks is "Health and Efficiency" from the EP of the same title, 10 minutes of driving, dense sound craziness! Deceit is certainly their best release, 40 minutes of incredible experimental rock, very strange but not too weird and very enjoyable after you got used to it! The best comparison is definitely early Can (Monstermovie up to Future Days). This band has clearly influenced them. Repeat is a posthumous release of material recorded 79-81, Made Available is a live Peel-session from 77, and an excellent starter for anyone interested. -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See 1919, La | Quiet Sun]|
Form and Meaning Reach Ultimate Communion (86), Great Trucking Songs of the Renaissance (88), Hot Dogma (90), The Beasts of Suburban (92)
They count if you mean progressive as in making progress, not merely copying earlier progressive bands. They are a very sarcastic band singing alot of stuff that is pretty normal (except lyricly - that's what sets them apart). The best parts are the poems. eg. "Life Kills" continues when suddenly the lead singer starts reciting. The song ends. He continues. The next song starts around him later. (it is all, btw, highly depressing). Best song titles "Bishop = Handjob," "Kill Americans" (yeah!), "Lillee Caught Dillee Bowled Millee Vanilli" (cricket reference).... I have forgotten the best ones now! Any way, they are progressive lyrically and musically they are 1/2 indy/alternative, 1/4 progressive, 1/4 sarcastic bastards.
It'll End in Tears (83), Filligree and Shadow (87), Blood (90)
This Mortal Coil (TMC) is not a group at all. It is the pet project of 4AD producer Ivo Watts-Russell. The Britsh 4AD record label has produced many alternative and progressive bands such as Bauhaus, Dead Can Dance, and the Cocteau Twins. In TMC, Ivo pulls together various individuals from 4AD bands, and he crafts music around their special talents. The first album, It'll End in Tears, is the most provocative. It appears that the artists had a great deal of input into the composition process. Liz Fraser gives two stellar vocal performances on Tim Buckley's "Song to the Siren" and Roy Harper's "Another Day." Like Liz' singing for the Cocteau Twins, these arrangements are mysteriously incognito, yet more elegant the most Cocteau Twins songs. "Another Day" features a string arrangement by Martin McGarrick that foreshadows his importance in later TMC albums. "Holocaust," "Fond Affections," "The Last Day," and "A Single Wish" feature some beautiful keyboard and guitar work by Martin Young (Colourbox) and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins). Young also teams up with Mark Cox (The Wolfgang Press) to create an electronic music piece that incorporates the simplicity of Minimalism with an almost Heavy Metal beat in a track called "Fyt." Vocal performances by Gordon Sharp (Cindytalk) on "Kangaroo" and by Howard Devoto on "Holocaust" I found to be dull compared to the rest of the material. Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) dominates three contiguous tracks with a blur of heavily processed (get this...) accordion as well as her haunting vocals, both reminicant of her early albums. The first of these, "Waves Become Wings," is quite similar to works on later TMC albums. Ivo's use of ocean wave sounds is expertly integrated into the ambient flow of the accordion tape loops. It is this use of "found sounds" that becomes the corner stone of many tracks on later TMC albums. This album is capped off by an rockin' rendition of Colin Newman's "Not Me" with exquisite performances by Robbie Grey (Modern English), Manuela Rickers (Xmal Deutschland), Robin Guthrie and Simon Raymonde (Cocteau Twins). This song is so hot it almost does fit the rest of the album. Since TMC is not a real group, per se, they tend to do a lot of covers; this trend continues in the later albums as well. The second album, Filligree and Shadow, represents a significant transition in production. First, there are fewer compositions by the artists that perform them. This implies that there are many cover tunes by such artists as Judy Collins, Van Morrison, and others that I don't recognize. It also implies that may compositions are from TMC itself (i.e. Ivo, McGarrick, John Fryer, etc). Secondly, this album was carefully crafted for the CD format; the music was digitally mixed and the pieces blend from one to another seemlessly and effortlessly. (It is also more than seventy minutes long!) This flow facilitates a new musical experience, but it also restricts the types of compositions and arrangements possible. Many of the TMC-composed pieces are strictly instrumental; celloist (and arranger/con- ductor) Martin McGarrick and violinist (and viola) Gini Ball, in conjunction with John Fryer and Ivo on everything else (including "found sounds"), form a semi-group that is This Mortal Coil. On the vocal side, we see the emergence of Dominic Appleton, Deidre and Louise Rutowski, and Allison Limerick, among others. I am most impressed by the Rutowski sisters; their voices tackle the most demanding ranges with grace and style. Allison gives an awesome punch to David Byrne's song "Drugs," which like "Not Me" in the first album is a rockin' tune that doesn't quite seem to fit. The third (and last I have been told) album, Blood, is very similar in style to Filligree and Shadow. Again, Ivo is joined by McGarrick, Fryer, and others to tangle us in a web of ambient and rock sounds that leaves me relaxed if not hypnotized. Not to say that there is no tension in this album. "I Come and Stand" is a hauntingly beautiful arrangement of a song composed by The Byrds (lyrics by the Arab poet ?Ahmad? Hikmet); this songs tells of a young child as a ghost who has died in the bombing of Hiroshima. Other covers include Syd Barrett's (Pink Floyd founder/songwriter) "Late Night," Randy California's (Spirit) "Nature's Way," Chris Bell's "You and Your Sister" and "I am the Cosmos," among others. The pieces composed by Ivo (and the gang) constitute a strange lot: a collage of strings, vocals, drum machines, "found sound" tape loops and effects, and a splash of gritty/squealin/droning guitar and keyboards. "Baby Ray Baby" is by far Ivo's most interesting "found sound" composition, in which an infant beautifully and effervescently babbles in its pre-phonetic language. These works remind me of Steinbeck's use of "interchapters" in the "Grapes of Wrath"; they form a musical glue or transition between the cover songs. The effect is usually pleasant and often surprising.
|Another US Prog masterpiece, from early '70 (1975). Caravan, Back Door, Relayer influences, mainly instrumental, OZ label. Line up: Dale Strenght (gr,v) Robyn Lee (kb, fl) Bernard Pershey (dr) Douglas Nelson (bs) Gregg Inhofer (kb,v). -- Antonio Ceruso|
Quand Le Bruit Devient Trop Aigu (71), Watch The Devil Go (75), Résurgence (78), Cinq Hops (79)
Sound Of The Sand (81)
Winter Comes Home (82)
Variations On A Theme (83)
More Places Forever (85)
Monster Walks The Winter Lake (86)
Blame The Messenger (86)
|Thomas was the main force and singer of Cleveland's legendary band Pere Ubu. Ubu broke up in 1982 and Thomas concentrated on his solo recordings he had started one year earlier with Sound In The Sand. Between 81 and 87 (when Pere Ubu restarted) he recorded six LPs. On these you find several ex-Ubus but also British RIO musicians like John Greaves, Lindsay Cooper and Chris Cuttler (who became drummer in the refunded Ubu band in 87) and also Richard Thompson (British folk-rocker, playing with Fairport Convention and with his own band). The music is strongly RIO influenced experimental rock, dominated by the characteristic singing by Thomas, sometimes quite weird, sometimes extremely beautiful and hypnotic ("Bicycle" from Monster or "The Long Rain" from Blame the Messenger). Except for Winter Comes Home (a live recording of Thomas telling poems and backed by Cooper and Cuttler, boring!) all his LPs are very good and highly recommended! In 1996 Thomas published another solo work. Erewhon fits well to his earlier recordings, showing the same experimental style. Monster is a boxed set containing all the recordings of the 8ties (except Winter Comes Home) plus a live recording of the Erewhon material. -- Achim Breiling|
|Links||[See Cooper, Lindsay | Fairport Convention | Greaves, John | Pere Ubu]|
Earth Vision Impact (01)
THØNK - Theo Gamper (bass, guitars), Flavio Mezzodi (drums, percussion) and
Marc Grassi (piano, keyboards)
Earth Vision Impact is an excellent album of keyboard-driven instrumental prog on the Galileo Records label. Produced by Pär Lindh, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Hammond playing sometimes reminds of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but it can also sound more pastoral like Greenslade, or even rockin' like ... uhm ... would you believe Pete Townshend (must have been a suspended fourth chord in there somewhere)? Piano parts sometimes reminded me of Cyrille Verdeaux's spacey arpeggios, but there are also Emersonian neo-classical piano sections too. There's some nice gothic pipe organ too, and many screaming analog synthesizer solos.
But, not forgetting the other band members, the guitar is all right, though some solos tend to meander a bit aimlessly. Track 5 ("Insharp") has a Latin Jazz section in it just to prove the guitarist really can play well. The rhythm section (bass and drums) are quite good, though the drums are recorded a bit muddily for my taste. Not enough to be objectionable, though.
Musically, the structures seem to be the time-honored progressive method of creating a bunch of interesting themes and stitching them together with nary a bridge in sight. Each section gets played multiple times until it's almost hypnotic (Philip Glass plays ELP?), then jumps right on to the next theme. This technique is OK, but especially in an all-instrumental album, a bit more work on segues between sections would have been welcome.
None of these minor complaints should prevent you from trying out this excellent CD, however. Bottom line is that I really liked it and recommend it to prog fans in general and progressive keyboard fans in particular. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for THØNK's web site
Click here to order this CD from Galileo Records
[See Metamorfosi | Spitaleri, Davide]
We Ila (04)
Nula Jedan (07)
Thork 2007 - (not in photo order) - Sébastian Fillion (voice, guitars, bass, synths,
Rhodes, piano, whistles, percussion, glockenspiel), Philippe Maullet (drums, percussion),
Arnaud "Arnito" Fillion (cello, oud), Claire Northey (violin), Samuel Maurin (fretless
& fretted bass), Violette Corroyer (voice), Hugo Quillet (trumpet, bugle), Jérome
Blanc (trombone) and Jérémie Maxit (tablas).
Original entry 5/27/05:
There is no band photo on their web site, nor much personal information other than the member's names: Sebastien Fillion, Michel LeBeau, Claire Northey, David Maurin, Samuel Maurin and Sebastien Penel. We Ila may not quite be an all-time classic, but it is excellent and an easy recommendation. I expect to hear more from these folks in the future. -- Fred Trafton
All in all, a quite nice album. Pick up a copy directly from the band (see MySpace link below). Thork are connected to Nil via bassist Samuel Maurin and also somehow to Syrinx, though because they kept their personnel secret, I don't know precisely how. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||[See Nil | Syrinx]|
Locked Inside (83)
To The Power of Three (88)
I've wanted to write something about 3 for a long time. Not Emerson, Lake and Palmer, but Emerson, Berry and Palmer, with vocalist Robert Berry replacing Greg Lake in the ELP line-up. I pull the CD out once every couple of years, and as it spins up, I think the same thing ... "Hey, this isn't so bad. Why don't I ever listen to it?" But ten or fifteen minutes into it, I've remembered why. It's because Emerson has simplified the polyphonic synthesizer lines down to the point that it really becomes a vocal-oriented album with Berry's voice taking the lead. Not that Berry is a terrible vocalist, but I come to an album like this wanting to hear a power keyboard trio, not an album of "songs". On top of that, Palmer sounds like he's either on Valium or has been threatened with his life if he does anything startling ... or even noticable ... on his drums. To the Power of Three is a totally boring album. ELP fans would be advised to pick up ELP's 1992 reunification album, Black Moon before this one. And I hated Black Moon. -- Fred Trafton
The following comment was moved here from the ELP entry:
Emerson joined with Palmer in '88, Robert Berry stepped in as singer and they called themselves 3. Bad name for an equally bad album. They too folded. -- Mike Taylor
|Links||[See Asia | Atomic Rooster | Emerson, Keith | Emerson, Lake and Palmer | Emerson, Lake and Powell | The Nice]|
A Third of a Lifetime (71)
Mahesha (72, German release, 1973 U.S. release was renamed Three Man Army)
|I would like to make a correction for the Three Man Army discography. [The GEPR previously listed Three Man Army (72) and Mahesha (73)]. Now, this is wrong, and unfortunately it has been reproduced everywhere. The discography gives the impression of there being four albums, when it actually are three. The confusion has to do with the American issues of this British hard rock band. Their first album is A Third of a Lifetime came out on Pegasus Records in 1971. Their second album was Mahesha and came out on Polydor in 1972 (only in Germany). When this album was issued in America in 1973 the title was changed to Three Man Army, and came out in 1973 on Mercury. Their third and last album Three Man Army Two, was released in both UK and USA on Reprise Records in 1974. -- Tommy Dahlén|
Ailanthus Altissima (?, EP)
Even Calls (05)
302 Acid Members include (but are not limited to) Douglas Kallmeyer, Andrew Reichel and Justin Mader
302 Acid's web site sucks, it's hard to find anything on it. I'm not even clear about whether they're selling CD's or LP's. But they do have several songs downloadable from their web site. And these are spectacular!
They describe their music as "a heavily-layered sound that draws influence from dub, ambient and IDM". OK, they get to describe their music however they want. But for me this is better: imagine a mixture of Rubycon-era Tangerine Dream mixed with Fripp and Eno's Evening Star, but recorded with a more modern sound (i.e. digital/sampling keyboards) and you've got some vague idea about what 302 Acid sounds like. They also mix the synths with bass and drums (or drum samples at least). Don't be concerned about the "digital synths" part ... these are some of the most lysergic sounds I've ever heard, dreamy and hypnotic yet very experimental and trippy sounding, and not the slightest bit boring. An excellent band! Check out their web site. -- Fred Trafton
|Links||Click here for 302 Acid's web site.|
Wounded Land (93)
Livedelica (95, Live)
Critical Mass (02)
Wireless (03, Acoustic sessions, available as download, see web site)
Critical Energy (04, Live, 2CD)
Replica (04, Collection of previously unreleased material)
Surface to Stage (06, Live)
Dead Reckoning (07)
Threshold - 2007 line-up (not in photo order) - Mac (vocals), Karl Groom (guitars),
Richard West (keyboards), Steve Anderson (bass) and Johanne James (drums)
[Wounded Land is a] decent CD with four good tracks out of eight. Threshold has a harder edge like Dream Theater. Not something that I really care for, but there are some good tracks. The first time I heard one of the tracks, I thought I was listening to Robert Plant. -- Steve Puccinelli
Guitarist Karl Groom played previously with Shadowland and Strangers on a Train. Original vocalist Damien Wilson was also the original vocalist for Landmarq, and has returned to tour with Threshold since the departure of their vocalist Mac. -- Fred Trafton
[See Landmarq |
Strangers on a Train]
Click here for Threshold's web site
Thrice Mice (71)
German underground jazzrock, sort of a mix of Soft Machine and Blood, Sweat And Tears. I heard their song on the Hamburg 70 compilation, lots of horns. Pretty good. -- Mike Ohman
Ultima Thule (87)
Liquid (Rock and Roll Dream) (05)
|One of the most bizarre and interesting recent progressive rock bands, Norwegians Thule released the first (very rare) Ultima Thule and have recently released the doomy and gothic Natt, which is dark and intense progressive that is quite unique. A little Pink Floyd is evident, but more or less Thule is just Thule.|
|I have Ultima Thule, the first album by this Norwegian quartet. Instruments are the usual guitar, keyboards, bass and drums. There are similarities to Pink Floyd (mostly in the Gilmouresque guitar and use of space and atmosphere) and Trettioåriga Kriget (rock orientation, strong bass presence) from nearby Sweden. There's also a bit of gothic quality to the music as you hear spoken text over howling winds (at the beginning of the first song) and there is an overall dark aura that pervades the entire album. This album is progressive the same way Trettioåriga Kriget is (or isn't the same way T. Kriget aren't). They sound like a rock band with some progressive tendencies, I guess in a manner similar to Rush. If you like Trettioåriga Kriget, you'll probably like Thule. If you don't care for T. Kriget, you'll probably want to stay away. Me? I enjoy them both.|
Click here for Thule's web site
Cornucopia (86), Melancholia (87)
Many years ago, Thurow was in the politico-prog band Eulenspygel. These albums of computerized synthesizer music turned up much later on. I have Cornucopia, and I believe it to be one of the electronic masterworks using digital keyboards. Thurow has a very imaginative style that's instantly recognizable, yet possibly derived from a variety of influences, from Klaus Schulze to Eela Craig. Thurow uses alien sounds and samples of more familiar ones side-by-side, often to stunning effect. "Chronological Order" is an exotic piece full of sampled percussion and jungle-like sounds that rather resembles a hipper, digitized Martin Denny. A couple of the songs feature outside instrumentation: "Detour" includes the classically-trained oboe of Roswitha Maier, while "Transmigrant" has an emotional sax solo by Bernd Konrad. The best track? Probably the hypnotic, slowly-developing "Intermission". Words simply cannot describe its beauty. Melancholia is supposed to be equally good. -- Mike Ohman
Hinn Íslenski þursaflokkur (78)
Á Hljómleikum (80, Live)
Gæti Eins Verið (82)
Nútíminn - Bestu lög þursaflokksins 1978-1982 ("Best Of...") (00, Compilation)
Note: Many people incorrectly refer to "Thursaflokkur" and "Thursabit" as "Pursaflokkur" and "Pursabit", which is incorrect. The Icelandic rune for "Th" (þ) looks sort of like a pregnant letter "I" and not unlike the letter "P". This similarity and unfamiliarity with the Icelandic alphabet is the source of confusion. I have listed the album titles in the discography using the Icelandic runes, but kept the band name and references in the reviews "translated" into English equivalents. -Ed.
|Their name on their first eponymous album was Hinn Islenzki Thursaflokkur (translation: The Icelandic Flock of Trolls / Hinn = The). This album was released 1978. When they released their second album Thursabit they had shortened their name to Thursaflokkurin (translation: The Flock of Trolls), and that is what everyone call them (even in the notes of the first album). Their third album was live and was probably released in 1980. It is said that they had made a fourth album 1994. [If so, I have been unable to find any evidence of it. However, they did release a fourth album Gaeti Eins Verid in 1982 -Ed.] -- Gunnar Creutz|
|This band hails from Iceland, and to get a hint at their sound you might think of a Scandinavian Gryphon mixed with a large dose of Gentle Giant. Thursabit was their second album, released in 1979. Hinn Islenski Thursaflokkur are by no means anything close to a Gentle Giant clone - they just do their own thing which happens to incorporate a lot of the kinds of things that make Gentle Giant such a good, original band; odd meters and constant time changes, lots of dynamics, quirky rhythmic and melodic motifs, excellent musicianship, a healthy variety in their sound, even within the same song, and well performed, if sometimes odd, vocals. The music is also reminiscent of bands such as Hatfield and the North and National Health. They have folk roots, but except for maybe two songs, this influence is heard more in the vocals than in the music. There is some excellent prog here, very energetic, that serves as a setting for old Icelandic verse. The extensive liner notes come with the lyrics in Icelandic as well as explanation and background on the poetry in English. Very interesting reading. The instrumentation is guitar, a variety of keyboards, bass, drums, and sometimes bassoon, all played with plenty of enthusiam and intensity. In my opinion, this is as good as anything Gentle Giant has done, and it is one of the best CDs I've gotten this year (along with Locanda della Fate, the double CD of Magma Live, Banco's Io Sono Nato Libero and Darwin!, Ozric Tentacle's Live Underslunky; pretty good company!). If you don't mind the idea of Icelandic vocals (I find them quite interesting), consider giving this a listen. And if you do try it, just ignore the first track. It's rather "poppy" in a 70's kind of way, but its only 3 minutes long and sounds nothing like the rest of the album. Great stuff. -- Rob Walker|
|Links||Click here to order Thursaflokkur albums. Enter "þursaflokkurinn" into the search engine (cut and paste the text inside the quotes from here if you have trouble entering the þ). Thanks to Rikhardur H. Fridriksson for this info from his Thursaflokkur web page.|
Steve Tibbetts (77), Yr (80), Northern Song (82), Safe Journey (84), Exploded View (86), Big Map Idea (89), The Fall Of Us All (94)
Steve comes from St.Paul, Minnesota, where in another reality he is a DJ at one of the local radio stations there. To say that he is a guitarist is truly an oversimplification of his unique style of combining all the possibilities of the studio with any and all instruments he happens to have handy. He is also a master of the mandolin, kalimba, and synthesizer also, although his music rarely uses it. He combines his guitarwork (both electric and acoustic) with an array of exotic worldwide percussion played by Marc Anderson, and tape loop studio effects created by both. The sound depends heavily on experimentation, both from the tape and from the music itself; Absence of sound plays an important part also, using silence and dynamics to tie things together. His first album was started as a project for an Electronic Music class in college. The five tracks on side one blend together to create a side-long experimental guitar opus. Side two kicks off with a heavy synth-track "Jungle Rhythm," then stretches out into some spacy guitar and electronics, and wraps up with "How Do You Like My Buddha?," an intense experiment in tape loops overlaid with heavy guitars and synth. The second album (Yr) is a must for guitar junkies: Each track overflows with multiple layers of acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, dobro, and exotic percussion; each flows nicely into the next, creating a sonic tapestry that is in constant evolution. Two tracks in particular, "Three Primates" and "You And It" are positively incredible! Northern Song is his first one for a major label (ECM), Recorded in Oslo, Norway, it relies almost exclusively on acoustic guitars and bongos/congas with studio acoustics and tape loops. The feeling is very sparse and spacy, very unlike the electrified Yr. Many of the overdubs sound as if they were added without listening to the tracks previously recorded, giving an out-of-sync effect, especially on the side long "Nine Doors/Breathing Space." With Safe Journey, Steve decided to turn the electricity back on, although many of the ideas from Northern Song are revisited here, further refined. This album has more variety than any of the others, from roaring adventures in guitar feedback ("Test") to the quietly dark and haunting "Night Again." Eastern ideas are explored in "Mission," using tabla, steel drums, tape loops and sitar. Another gem is "Any Minute," an experiment with multi-tracked kalimbas, guitars, percussion and tape loops that creates a mind shattering wall-of-sound effect. Exploded View is probably the most violent and edgy of all his recordings, dense and rough, almost frightening at times. This feeling carries throughout, from the snarling feedback of "Name Everything" to the other-worldly feeling of "Assembly Field." Vocals are used on several tracks (for the first time) for elevation and effect only (no lyrics). The variety of Safe Journey and the first two is not to be found here; the entire project has a unifying sound that is distinct from the others and unique unto its own. A challenging listening experience. Big Map Idea returns to a more acoustic sound, similar to the instrumentation of Northern Song, but more directed and defined. The compositions are more spastic and abrasive, jumping from one idea to the next without warning, erupting and dissolving. the only familiar tune here is a cover of Led Zeppelin's "Black Mountain Side"; all the other musical events on this album don't happen long enough to sink in and stay with you. Wouldn't reccomend it for starters.
From their first live performance in 1972, it was seven years before Tibet released their sole LP. By the time of their LP, were a six piece: Klaus Werthmann (vocals), Deff Ballin (keyboards, percussion), Dieter Kumpakischkis (keyboards), Karl-Heinz Hamann (bass, percussion), Fred Teske (drums, percussion, guitar, vocals) and Jurgen Krutzsch (guitars, percussion). Despite all the percussion listings, this is not a particularly percussive album. However, for a brief passage in the longest track, "Take What's Yours," it sounds like we have drums, shakers, cymbals and other percussion, so I suppose the listing is warranted. It seems the drums were poorly recorded as they sound extremely thin and boxy. I don't think this is a by-product of the noise reduction used in mastering from an LP because the other instruments sound okay. Fans of the Hammond organ will be delighted because there is an obviously strong keyboard dominance on this album. There are loads of organ solos, several synth solos and many waves of Mellotron. Of the seven songs, which range from 4.5 minutes up to 7.5 minutes, only two are entirely instrumental. The remainder usually have longish instrumental breaks between the English lyrics. Comparison-wise, Tibet are in the vein of several German symphonic bands, including Eloy, Amenophis and Novalis. To me, the trademark of these bands is the layers of organ and synths, wrapped in a spacious and atmospheric bundle. The guitar is usually laid back rather than driven, creating a relaxing, uncomplicated and pleasant atmosphere. "Eagles," the second instrumental, is a perfect example. While not as strong an album as Novalis' Sommerabend, those of you into that style should find Tibet to be a worthy listen. -- Mike Taylor
The Crowded Room (79)
This Belgian group released only one album in the late '70s. Musically, they are fairly original and unique, with a sound that combines elements of jazz, folk and pop, with hints of classicism. The lineup consists of Hadi Al Gammal (lead vocals, 12 string acoustic guitar), Christian Gilbert (drums), Didier De Roos (keyboards, acoustic guitar, background vocals) and Sam Mackinney (basses). The sound is driven by everpresent acoustic and 12 string guitar and piano, with simple yet colorful arrangements. Hadi's voice may remind of Greg Lake at times. Overall, difficult to draw any convenient comparisons to, but some general comparisons could be drawn with groups like Terraced Garden, with emphasis on the songs. Lyrics are in English. This is an outstanding album.
Espace Fini (89)
|French progressive which doesn't really sound like anything else, but doesn't hold my interest very well either. Some songs click, but others don't seem to go anywhere for a long time.|
|Parade is the third release from the French band, whose works consist of all-instrumental pieces generated by a keyboards/guitars/drums line-up. The music is quite similar in style to some of Kit Watkins' earlier solo releases, in terms of the keyboard contributions, augmented with electric guitars. There are enough variant time signatures to deliver bliss to the prog-heads who enjoy that sort of thing, and the playing is adventurous enough to prevent the sameness that sometimes afflicts all-instrumental bands. Other comparisons could be made to countrymen Edhels and Minimum Vital.|
|French instrumental trio consisting of guitar, keyboards and drums/vibraphone. This band recalls Shylock, but with a lot more angularity and urgency, the rapid-fire changes in time-sig and tempo within the music take place at a near schizophrenic pace. On the first album, guitar-keyboard interchanges take on a pyrotechnic feel, with later albums expanding on this basic style with more electronics. All three albums are very worthwhile, recommended for fans of mid-period King Crimson. Start with the first album or Parade.|
|Tiemko's Ocean is a breath of fresh air in the modern scene. Recorded in 1990, Ocean offers an interesting and unique approach. Entirely instrumental, containing rapid time changes and moderately proficent playing, there are so many styles covered in 50 minutes of music that I can't begin to describe them all. From the opening track, "Episode," they sound reminiscent of the style of Minimum Vital without vocals, but I really have to stretch to hear the similarities. After going through about 15 time changes in the first couple of minutes of guitar/keyboard lead work, no real theme had emerged. They would use a certain pattern in a certain key for only a run or two then exchange it for something new. Beautiful! This is exactly what I want to hear after all those bands that turn five minute ideas into 10 minute songs. "Episode" ends with a drums solo which surprised me - I tend to consider such material filler - but didn't detract from the overall quality of the music. The next two tracks approach from a pseudo-jazz point of view, though again they accomplish this fusion in a refreshingly new style. Often they intersperse a jazz progression with a quick run of a classical style, then back into the jazz. It's schizophrenic mix that works perfectly. I was constantly surprised and pleased when I first listened to it. The fifth and final track is a 20 minute opus that probably could have been cut down to about 15 without losing any musicial ideas. It doesn't drag on, but it tends to repeat itself a little too often compared to their short and to the point approach on the first four. They even touch on an electronic style at moments, though not enough to get an idea of their approach from. They also could have left out the guitar solo at the beginning which goes nowhere and makes me think they put it in to make the song longer. The sound is refreshing as well. With only a guitarist, keyboardist (doubling on bass) and drummer, they miss a full sound of band with four or more musicians though they do plenty to make up for it. The guitarist uses whammy bar harmonics and heavy effects on his instrument through the entire album, while the keyboardist relies on a heavy but "thin" style, as opposed to the classic Moog or Hammond prog sound. The bass is the least interesting instrument, usually buried in the mix, and rarely active enough to capture my attention. Obviously the keyboardist prefers the keys! The only real detraction is the fourth cut, "Vodka Frappee," which contains a minimal drumming effort and repetitive bass rhythm. Personally, I would have cut out parts of the 20 minute piece and added some variety in guitar effects, but that's about all the nitpicking I can do! Although they never get into truly complicated writing with counterpoint or intertwined melodies, their "one lead at a time approach" is sufficient since it is backed up by an active, busy drummer who's not afraid to add fills as often as possible. While Ocean is not a classic, its remains quite good and definitely worthwhile for anyone looking for a new sound. For Tiemko's third release, Parade, the band has pursued a slightly different musical direction, but I can't say that it's all that interesting. The focus on Parade is keyboard/xylophone/guitar-harmonics blends, with a number of tracks taking a more conventional power trio approach. Again, their style is hard to nail down, including diverse influences such as King Crimson and Tangerine Dream but with a modern sound. I'll admit that they are doing something different, if not unique. But the music itself ruins their creativity with its simplistic "hold chord - scale - hold chord" approach. Sounds like something composed in an afternoon rather than being well thought out. Two chord rhythms and monophonic melodies don't do this instrumental band any justice though there are enough hooks to keep a casual interest. If you're a fan of previous Tiemko albums, give it a shot. Otherwise, I wouldn't suggest buying it without hearing it first.|
|I have two of their albums, Ocean and Parade. Both are excellent albums and well worth a listen. The band is a trio of keyboards, electric and acoustic guitars, and drums. The music is an amalgam of jazz fusion and symphonic progressive. The electric guitar work is reminiscent of someone like Allan Holdsworth or David Torn. The acoustic guitar works reminds me of the current John McLaughlin Trio or, perhaps, Pat Metheny without a guitar synthesizer. Since there is no bass, the keyboards are responsible for adding richness to the low-end, which they do very well. The 20+ minute title track to Ocean blends the electric fusion (guitar) with classic symphonic progressive (keyboards). The mixture comes off sounding fresh and fairly original. The closest comparison would probably be another French band, Minimum Vital. Fans of one would do go to check out the other. On Parade, the style continues in the same vein, though the sound is changed somewhat. The songs are shorter (nine on Parade compared to five on Ocean) and some of the fusion styling has been replaced with a somewhat 20th century classical feel--some of the melodies are slightly more angular. There is still plenty of the same electric solo style as on Ocean. It just seems the keyboard work is brought out more with more exploration of texture and space. Very good albums, indeed! -- Mike Taylor|
|They tend to get less press than Edhels or Minimum Vital, which is sad, as I think Tiemko are the most original and exciting of the new Musea bands. I must admit, I wasn't too impressed on first listen. But Tiemko makes the kind of music that takes several listens to fully appreciate. The band is a trio encompassing guitar, keyboards and percussion. In their music, I can hear bits of King Crimson and Happy The Man, as well as some more exotic (perhaps Chinese and/or Balinese) influences. Unlike Minimum Vital, Tiemko are not afraid to use dissonance in their music. They also make greater use of intricate rhythms, aided no doubt by their drummer, who effortlessly pulls off the tricky time-signatures. He's obviously the best drummer of the latest wave of French prog. The guitar is very Robert Fripp sounding. Tiemko are also one of the most imaginative users of digital synths this side of Univers Zero. I'd very much recommend Parade. I don't know how the others compare to it, but I hope to hear them soon.|
|Parade is the third album by the superb French trio of Remy Chauvidan (electric guitars, keyboards), Jean Jacques Toussaint (synthesizers), and Eric Delaunay (drums, vibraphone, xylophone). Chauvidan, Toussaint, and Delaunay each contributed three tracks to Parade. Tiemko creates an amalgam of rock, jazz fusion, and progressive music (e.g., King Crimson, Ptose, Sensations Fix, and Pat Metheny). Their music ranges from the excellent pseudo-Mellotron of Delaunay's "Good Bye Mister Prog," through Chauvidan's oriental piece "Taille One," to the breath taking acoustic guitar of Delaunay's "Hymne." While on this musical journey I encountered Toussaint's "Spirale" with a lead guitar line that sounds like the melody from Sergio Mendez' '60s hit "The Look of Love." Not at all what I expected from Eric Delaunay's medieval influenced cover art! I guess you can't tell a CD by its cover. Buy this CD and join Tiemko on a parade through their unique blend of music.|
Of the two Tiemko releases I possess, both satisfy me to varying degrees. Of
L'Ocean: Lovely and unbelievably uninflicting, totally instrumental mix
of Red era King Crimson and best
Giants. Sounds like Tiemko continued where
Arachnoid ceased once. Of necessary mention is
22+' long title track, very atmospheric and whose ambients vary from celestial
to threateningly sinister. Interested can grab this one blindfold, esp. because
Musea cut its price recently.
Clone is orientated toward more listenable side of things and has vocals added (late Eric sang here). To be honest, it is uneven rather than bad (for my taste) and very varied, almost eclectic. Dissonances and darker passage are present, but erroneously emphasized production has pretty weakened them. Especially they are spoiled by improperly produced Remy Chauvidan's synthé. Thus even almost 12 minutes long "Clone" loses its potentials. Sometimes keyboards arrive perniciously close to pompous "neo" feel. Otherwise many tracks have nice but not prog pedigree. "Decadanse" and "Desamour" are basically vivid funk-rock, maybe only a bit darkened. "Apocalypse" is straight, almost metal song. Another straight number is "Rock and Roll Alice". Perhaps the best track on album is opener "Double Face", whose title most properly represents developing of the album. Band also added five nervous atmo-ambient miniatures, entitled "Venus Dancing" (three times) or "L'eternité comme si vous y étiez" (two times). Closing number is 16 minute short "Immemoriam", which seems (to me) to mock everything what is connected with music, it is kinda parody rather than usual track, but even as such isn't bad. Rightly opposite, it is one of best tracks. Lyrics sings an ode to Tiemko, their compositions and their music in general. Irony of fate concerning the title is that Eric Delaunay died two years later in car accident, so the last track proved hideously on the spot. However, decent arrangements and top-notch musicianship help this release not to fall among average ones. Definitely worth the recent price at Musea. -- Nenad Kobal
[See Delaunay, Eric]
Click here for Tiemko's web site (in French only).
Maisemakuvia Suomesta (81)
Vanhat Valokuvat (84)
Pizza A'La Anssi Tikanmäki (94)
Perinteinen Pop-levy (01)
|Links||Click here for Anssi Tikanmäki's web site|
Al Fin (75), Alcocebre (7?)
Tiles (94, re-released in 2004 as "Special Edition" w/ bonus tracks)
Fence The Clear (97, re-released in 2004 as "Special Edition" w/ bonus tracks)
Presents Of Mind (99, re-released in 2004 as "Special Edition" w/ bonus tracks)
Presence In Europe 1999 (00, board tape/live bootleg)
Window Dressing (04, also released as a "Limited Edition" including Presence In Europe 1999 as a bonus disc)
Tiles - (not in photo order) Mark Evans (drums), Chris Herin (guitar), Paul Rarick (vocals)
and Jeff Whittle (bass)
When I first started doing research for the GEPR's entry on the Detroit, Michigan band Tiles, I thought I was going to say that they were a Rush wannabe band. The first thing I heard from them was a video on their web site where they're jamming a Rush tune (I think it's "La Villa Strangiato") with Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater drumming at a sound check before a concert (Tiles toured as backup band with Dream Theater on a recent tour ... this video is actually really cool!) Then I heard that they're using Hugh Syme for their album art, had Terry Brown as a producer and even have Alex Lifeson as a guest on their next album. So, I downloaded all of their samples on their web site, spanning all four of their studio albums, to create a compilation overview to review for the GEPR. I expected, as I said, to hear a Rush clone. But, preconceptions are sometimes wrong, and this is one of those cases.
If I had to compare them to another single band, it would be Dream Theater, not Rush. No wonder Mike Portnoy liked them so much when he heard them that he invited Tiles to tour with them. But there is a likeness to Rush in some very Lifesonesque guitar work. Tiles is no home-produced garage band with delusions of metal Godhood ... these guys sound really professional in both playing skill and recording quality. The vocal stylings frequently remind me of James LaBrie, and the rhythm section is tight and intricate. The guitar work is more Lifeson than Petrucci, however, and they have a lot of their own elements to add to the mix too, so they definitely have found their own sound. It's prog-metal, but very melodic, perhaps without as much keyboards as either a typical Dream Theater or Rush song might have. But it's in the more tuneful and less noisy end of the prog-metal spectrum, which suits me just fine.
Tiles is a very professional-sounding and interesting band for those who like the sort of music I'm talking about here. Go to their web site and give their samples a listen, at least. You may find, like me, that you will want to hear more ... I'm looking forward to their new album, which will be released on the Inside Out label in January 2008, and will be called Fly Paper (featuring Alex Lifeson as a guest guitarist and hard-rock diva Alannah Myles as a guest vocalist, cover art and keyboard work from Hugh Syme, and production by Terry Brown, in case you're impressed by this ... I was ...). -- Fred Trafton
Click here for Tiles' web site
Time (75), Prime Time (84)
Time (72), Time II (75), Zivot U Cizmama S Visokom Petom (76)
Act II:Galileo (95)
Prog metal in the vein of Dream Theater and Fates Warning. Galileo is one 52 minute song.
The Fabric of Betrayal (95)
Blood of the Berry (97)
Island of the Misfit Toys (99)
Bones of Ghosts (05, scheduled release date)
Regarding The Fabric of Betrayal:
After listening to the first few songs, I was ready to dismiss American band Timothy Pure as a somewhat proggy version of REM, but uninteresting to me. As the disc continued to play, various passages started to capture my ear. By the end of the album, I decided these guys deserved a few more listens. Timothy Pure consists of Randy Brown (guitars), Chet Jameson (drums, percussion) Andre Neitzel (bass), Nick Savage (lead vocals) and Matthew Still (keyboards, backing vocals). As a whole, the "proggy REM" label is still adequate, I think. I haven't heard much REM, but they were continually and consistently called to mind as I listened to the nine songs on this CD. Nick Savage's vocals, in particular, remind me of one of REM's singers (dunno which one), while some of the "folky" qualities of the music and the arrangements also reminded me of the band from Athens, GA. Yet, Timothy Pure fleshed out their melodies and compositions to create something with more perceived substance than anything I've heard from REM. There were soaring guitar solos and atmospheric synths intertwined around the abundant vocals. The album first truly caught my ear with the fourth song, the six minute tune called "Dissolve." Each successive song had something to offer me, however brief, although I grew weary of the strong vocal presence. Perhaps that's why I found the three minute instrumental called "Channels" to be the best track on the disc. To be honest, The Fabric of Betrayal is nowhere near my prefered listening pleasures, but it had a certain quality that I couldn't deny. For those who like a marriage of modern rock with some progressive rock tendencies, Timothy Pure has much to offer you.
Regarding Blood of the Berry:
This [Blood of the Berry] is Timothy Pure's second CD. Their first
The Fabric of Betrayal was meant as a sampler of what was in store
for us. All the songs are suppose to appear on future CDs. Well their second
CD, Blood of Berry has three songs from the first "The Aberration",
"Slide" and "Private Hedge" all rerecorded and slightly reworked on the new
CD. The CD is about hour, with 14 tracks, none of the songs are that long. I
think the longest is in the 6 to 8 minute range. The band now consists of
Andre Neitzel (bass) and Matthew Still (voice, keys) from the
first CD, plus new members, Zod (guitars) and Chris Wallace (drums).
All the tracks have lyrics and vocals/instrumental ratio is probably close to 80/20. Something that generally doesn't bode well with me. But I love this CD! Matthew's voice is pleasure to listen to and the playing behind him is very good. All of Zod's solos are very tasty indeed. This band can cut loose when it wants to, tracks like "Where Mercy Ends" and "Incineration Point" are very strong and energetic without bordering on the metal touches so many Neo bands are doing.
While this band can rock out, they can play the slower more melodic pieces even better! Again its Matt's voice which brings out the charm in this CD. When its over I feel like hitting the repeat button to go through the journey again. The duets he has with Johnnie Hooper (this is a woman by the way) on "The Afterglow" and "The Interim" are very good. Two of my favorite songs on the set in fact. This is a CD that will grow on you, with each listen has you will hear more and more.
In summary a strong second effort by what looks to be one of America's better prog bands. I might even go so far as to say they could become big outside the world of prog! (if such a world truly exists). One of the year's finer musical statements, simply because TP tries to sound like no one other then TP. No Gabriel / Genesis clones here. TP is a band with a unique voice and vision. I am already can't wait for their next CD, lets hope we don't have to wait 2 years for it. -- Ken Brown
|Timothy Pure is a four piece band from Georgia whose specialty is very symbolic concept albums. Many people compare them to the Moody Blues, but I hear more of a Pink Floyd or Marillion influence. I have Blood of the Berry and Island of the Misfit Toys. The band is very vague about the meanings of the albums. Instead they leave it up to the listener to interpret. BotB is described as a "twisted love story" and is a very moody piece. While quite good, it is not nearly up to par with Island of the Misfit Toys. This story follows abused children as they journey to another place, in a style very similar to Queensryche's "Silent Lucidity," at night to escape their lives. As near as I can tell, the first few songs cover the actual journey. The middle songs introduce the individual children to us. The final few songs deal with Enoch, who must destroy all of the evil misfit toys. He also has an abusive father to confront in the chilling "Behind the Front." With the exception of drummer Chris Wallace, there is no real virtuoso in the band. Instead, they lean heavily on moody keyboards and Steve Rothery/David Gilmour styled guitar playing. Most of the songs are in a lesurely paced, 4-6 minute range, and they all have lots of layered vocals and an abundance of symbolism. Fans of bombastic or overly complex music would be advised to look elsewhere. This is very emotional music which should appeal to fans of concept albums. -- Jeff Oaster|
I have heard Blood of the Berry and Island of the Misfit Toys,
plus Timothy Pure's live cuts on the ProgDay 95 compilation. I find
myself going back and forth on how much I like these guys depending on the
mood I'm in when I listen to these CD's. They definitely have a lot of
"modern rock" or "alternative rock" sound in their style. They were compared
to REM in another review here, but I might as easily compare them to many
other modern bands like the ones my oldest son listens to on MTV. Sometimes
this doesn't bother me and other times it bugs the heck out of me, just depends
on how forgiving I'm feeling that day.
So, on days when I'm not feeling too Prog-snobby, I must say that I can really get into Timothy Pure's sound. They do have a lot of vocals, but the lyrics are fairly opaque and might have any one of a number of meanings, or many meanings, or may be total stream of consciousness randomness. The vocals typically occur with a thickly symphonic backdrop of sound which is mostly textural rather than showy. The music is slow in its development and almost tends to drag a bit. Ever done Qualuudes and Vodka? Same idea. Psychedelic but in a slow, edge-of-consciousness, downer sort of way. So what kind of guy must I be to say I can sometimes get into this music? No, I've never done Qualuudes and Vodka, but I've done similar enough things to know what that's all about. Now that my body can't tolerate doing that sort of thing any more, I sometimes get into a mood to be buffeted in slow motion by depression. Timothy Pure is a good replacement for a downer high.
Comparing albums, the ProgDay 95 CD is the most "alternative rock" of them, which corresponds to the same time as their first album The Fabric of Betrayal. These are mostly "rough cuts" of songs that would appear on their later albums, including "The Aberration", "Through the Fountain's Eye" and "When Vices Collide" from Blood of the Berry and "Channels" from Island of the Misfit Toys. The recording quality isn't bad, so this is a good primer for Timothy Pure, though it would also be their best bet if radio airplay was what they were shooting for.
Like the ProgFest 95 material, Blood of the Berry includes enough reverb and Mellotron-like string samples in their sound that you really have to classify it as Progressive (though I would say it's of the neo-prog variety), though the slow and repetitious "alternative rock" sound still lingers. The songs from ProgFest 95 have been reworked to make them both more complex and more heavily orchestrated, though I can still see why some people say, "yeah, but it's not Prog". This album still straddles the line between "alternative" and "progressive". The lyrics on this album appear to be telling some kind of story, but I'll be damned if I can figure out what it is.
By far, the best of what I've heard from TP is on their latest album, Island of the Misfit Toys. This album feels less like "playing the same thing over and over" and more like "developing themes in multiple variations". The thick reverb/string sound is still there, but there just seems to be more variation in textures and arrangement as songs develop. There's also a discernable story line, about abused or abandoned children somehow getting avenged by destroying some evil misfit toys on an island (in their imaginations?). Even after half a dozen listens, I'm not too clear on the story line, but at least it's depressing. The recording quality also seems to be better on this CD, and the music is pretty cool too. If they continue to develop in the same direction, I'll be able to recommend their next album with no "buts". -- Fred Trafton
News 1/20/05: After Timothy Pure keyboardist/vocalist Matthew Still finished engineering the latest Elton John album (no kidding!), TP has finally been able to get back into the studio to record their own new album. Bones of Ghosts is being recorded and should be available in 2005. -- Fred Trafton
Click here for the Timothy Pure web site
Click here to order the ProgDay '95 2CD compilation from SynPhonic Music
Tinyfish (06, EP)
Curious Things (09, EP, Compilation of "Vault" recordings)
One Night On Fire (09, Live, CD or DVD)
The Big Red Spark (10)
Tinyfish - (L to R) Jim Sanders (guitar), Bob Ramsay (harmonica, silly voices), Simon Godfrey (voice,
guitar, drums), Paul Worwood (bass). Also Leon Camfield (drums) (not pictured)
Tinyfish bills themselves on their web site as "The World's Smallest Progressive Rock Band", which says something about their sense of humor. If not their humility. I know a lot smaller prog bands in the world. I got their debut album Tinyfish as a promo back when it came out, and though I did like it, it never made it quite high enough on my priority list to get into the Gibraltar Encyclopedia. But then I got a copy of their second release, Curious Things. I listened once, and though I was intrigued, I never got around to the second listening because of other albums bumping it. Finally, it was relegated into one of my "really got to get around to these" boxes.
Fast forward to this week. I happened to find both albums while arranging and alphabetizing CD's into a new set of storage shelves. Yeah, like you care. Anyway, I listened to both of them and decided I really liked them. Both are on the short side, about 30 minutes each, so I categorize these as "EP"'s. They're still both very good, though, despite their short length. So, I Googled the band's web site discovered they had released a new album The Big Red Spark in 2010. They hadn't sent me a promo of this one. And who can blame them, since I had evidently ignored their first two albums? So, by way of apology and to hear the new album, I did something I rarely do ... I actually bought The Big Red Spark, online at the iTunes store. Holy smokes! I'm really glad I did! The Big Red Spark is a masterpiece!
Overall, I'd have to categorize Tinyfish as neo-prog, as in "modern-sounding prog" (not as in "sounds like early Marillion"), with some metallish influence without being prog-metal, some AOR tendencies without getting dull, and some indie rock without getting blatantly commercial sounding. I suppose some of the more '70's purists would say this isn't prog at all mut more "Classic Rock" in style. There's no keyboard player, so the sound isn't your traditional prog-rock with synthesizers, though the band does occasionally use guitar synths to include some of those electronic timbres. (Oh, come on ... is that really not an organ on "Motorville", the first cut on Tinyfish? And not Mellotron on "Nine Months on Fire"? Or at least some sort of string sampler? Really? Wow.)
Vocal overdubs are used to good effect in creating harmonies, and Tinyfish is also partial to narrative portions spoken against a musical/sound effect background. The recording quality is spectacular. Simon Godfrey's brother Jem Godfrey of Frost* produced Curious Things, and Simon clearly shares his brothers skills in the recording studio. The Godfrey brothers, along with Jim Sanders amd Paul Worwood, were all in a late '80's/early 90's band called Freefall, so it could be said that Tinyfish evolved from them (Simon was the drummer!).
So, though I liked the debut album and Curious Things, I'll leave what I've said above as an adequate description and move on with what the band considers to br their SECOND album, The Big Red Spark. I've already called this album a masterpiece, so I'll need to get more specific. This is a concept album, about building the machine that makes wishes come true. Someone in all the parallel universes of the multiverse creates their own version of the machine, and as they are all switched on, they end up destroying all existence, even as they are fulfilling everyone's wish. Or something like that. Apparently based on a dream of Simon Godfrey's, the storyline is pretty nonlinear (I don't think this could be called a "rock opera" by any means), but it uses narration, studio gimmickery (the Brits call it "wankery", right?) and very cool songwriting and lyrics to weave an emotionally compelling and viscerally frightening story about how getting everything you want can result in losing it all. Nothing "garage band" sounding in this album at all. It's all totally pro. I particularly like the sound effects at the very end of the album, which tells you in the last few seconds what the real meaning of the story is. I already sort of told you, but anyway, I'll leave it as a surprise for you.
Oh, one other thing ... if you buy the album on CD instead of downloading it, you'll also get a bonus DVD containing an interview of the band discussing the making of the album, plus four bonus songs. You can also hear the bonus songs on their web site, but I for one feel the need to order the hard media. Much as I enjoy the convenience of plugging my iPhone into my car stereo and having a massive selection of prog to choose from, some albums just demand to be heard on CD. And The Big Red Spark is one of them.
At any rate, the quality and imagination of The Big Red Spark album catapaults the band from "The World's Smallest Progressive Rock Band" into the big leagues. Well, perhaps not that big. The progressive rock pond is, after all, pretty small, so maybe it's better to remain a Tinyfish there. The big leagues are famously demanding, money-grubbing, cutthroat and manipulative. Ask Echolyn how they liked recording for Sony. Who needs it? Way better to remain a Tinyfish with big ideas and the freedom to make them happen the way they want. -- Fred Trafton
[See Freefall |
Click here for Tinyfish's web site
The Man Who Does Not Nod (95)
God Says I Can't Dance (96)
Floating Opera (97)
Top Row: Akira Sotoyama (Drums), Tsuneo Imahori (guitar), Hiroaki Mizutani (Bass)
Bottom Row: Osamu Matsumoto (Trombone), Naruyoshi Kikuchi (Sax), Akira Minakami (Keyboards)
He-he, neoproggies and sympho-only crowd, stop reading here. This is one of bands which defined the word "difficult" in prog. Beside Höyry-Kone, Doctor Nerve and Blast, this is the most advanced band of the 90's. Their sound is one hell to describe, but I'm insane enough to try. Taking Frank Zappa in his orchestrated-fusion era (Waka Jawaka, etc.), adding to that Henry Cow circa LegEnd and/or Western Culture and Hatfieldish stylings, all three mixed extremely well plus John Zorn-ish free-jazz excesses and unique Tipo-twist, everything may result in a taboon-like concoction for adorers of eighties period John Wetton.
Band is actually a sextet of crazy Japanese', who spit laser bullets with guitars, keyboards, saxes, bass, drums and trombone (yep). Although the band has rather accessible sound basis, they succeeded in upgrading it with different rhythm approach and perhaps made four albums of the most complex progressive music available.
The band is at home in contrarhythms, actually they can play and they ARE playing poli-contra-rhythmically, and they do that very intense, with splashes (Coltrane on 45 or higher) of notes on the edge of discernibility and very quickly (Tempo in average between 120 and 150). The use of demi-semi-quavers (1/32 of a notes) is here at the utmost(for ears). In comparison with that much of RIO, New Music and contemorary classical sound rather light. They like extended tracks. 7'+ and 8'+ers prevail, while almost each album contains 11+' long piece.
Eponymous debut has nice, "LegEndary" sound. This is perhaps their "easiest" and perhaps closest to upper definition. Few tracks have nice, only slightly strange riffs, which can start nesting in listener's brain after first or second listen. Everything here is made much more delicately than on LegEnd (of Henry Cow respectively). Time signatures are amoebic, changing every fourth or third bar, sometimes even each second bar. Sax (soprano or tenor) is whining or tweeting, often paired with keyboards or tuned percussion. Keyboards often imitate reeds, so together with guitar and trombone it sounds like a woodwind ensemble and somewhat closer to Hatfields or Cow (In a way, in a way!). Nothing sounds forced, although it is hella precise. It is said to be composed, but does not sound like that.
The Man Who Does Not Nod is a live recording. Recorded in various clubs in Japan, it has only two tracks from debut, others are exclusive for this recording, so it is a proper album. Album has more of a "free" feeling. It signifies a turn to so called free music. Both tracks from debut ("Naked Lunch" and "A Turf Has Disordered Gravity") are only slightly extended, while few other tracks are stark improvisation with long solos, such as "A Smell of Gunpowder and a Flavor of She". This one reminds me of ECM-school as virtuoso trombone solo appears. On track "MC-500 in a Zen Room" contempo classical overtones can be heard. This track reminds me of Varese. This album, 'though recorded live, has a bigger production and a fatter sound than debut (which production reminds me of Hatfield's debut).
Festival of lopsided rhythms, yeah, so it could be called Tipo's no.3, God Says I Can't Dance. How spasmodic it would be, if one would decided to dance on such music. Well, I can imagine. After first few listens rhythm sounded to be quite separated from "tuned" side of the song structure. The band has added various japanese and non-japanese ethnic instruments from different parts of the world (djembe, etc.). If you can imagine how it would sound shrinked, cut-off and completely serrated music, then this is it. Brilliant and as inaccessible as one may think. After additional listens (5 until now) some patterns started to uncover themselves. I guess that after listen no.30 I'll get as much as clear picture of music on this album. Stunning!!!
With Floating Opera, band continued somewhat "easier", though this word still encapsulates pretty different meaning from usual one. This album is done more on the electronic side, prevalent instrument are keyboards. Beside very long tracks here are also four miniatures, inspired by the date and weather. Be it sunny, rainy, snowy or only cloudly, everything was written down in notes and other signatures and excellently describes conditions of Japan climate (ha-ha).
The music of Tipos (that's how I call 'em) is extremely demanding, but I like this band because I know that I'll found something new even after 57th "go-through". Few years ago band ceased to exist. Some members continued in a band Low Blow, but I don't know if this is permanent. Well, if you like exploring the progressive music, sooner or later you'll have to meet them and acquire their Canterbury inspired New Music. Essential!!!!! -- Nenad Kobal
[See Low Blow]
Click here for Tipographica's web site (in English)
Street Noise (68)
Jools & Brian (69)
Sunset Glow (76)
Tropic Appetites (??)
Encore (??, w/ Brian Auger)
|The music in Centipede's Septober Energy was composed by British pianist, Keith Tippett, and the lyrics are by his then wife, the then Julie Tippett, who is better known as Julie Driscoll for her work with Brian Auger. -- Fred Trafton, paraphrased from Dave Wayne's Centipede review|
|Links||[See Centipede | Tippett, Keith]|
You are Here I Am There (69)
Dedicated To You, But You Weren't Listening (70)
Ovary Lodge (73, as Ovary Lodge)
Ovary Lodge (75, as Ovary Lodge)
Frames (78, as Keith Tippett's Ark)
Warm Spirits Cool Spirits (77)
No Gossip (80)
Mujician 2 (86)
A Loose Kite in a Gentle Wind/Floating with Only My Will for an Anchor (86)
Mujician III (August Air) (87)
66 Shades of Lipstic (90)
Une Croix Dans L'Ocean (94)
Friday the 13th (00, Live in Japan, 1997)
|Tippett (keyboards, piano) joined King Crimson for the In The Wake of Poseidon sessions, stayed with the band till Islands, but was never a true member of KC. During this time he did two of his own projects, one was the big band Centipede the other the Keith Tippett Group. The latter he founded in the late 6ties and gathered several excellent musicians from the London Jazz/Rock scene. They recorded Dedicated in 70, which was published on the Vertigo Swirl label. On this LP you will find Elton Dean and Robert Wyatt (Softmachine), Roy Babbington (Nucleus, later Soft Machine), Marc Charig (cornet, you will find him on some Crimson LPs, e.g. Lizard and Red) and some others. On this release you hear Tippett's typical big band-like sound (3 drummers!!, two basses), and the music is quite similar to the Centipede stuff (free jazz/rock/fusion), but with a much reduced ensemble. The track "Green And Orange Night Park", composed by Tippett, reminds very much of some moments on Crimson's Lizard (which must have been recorded a the same time) and shows the influence Tippett had on the Crimson sound of that period. This is really an excellent work and if you like free jazz a bit and the brass/jazz moments on Lizard, this album is highly recommended. In 1977 he started another big band project, Keith Tippett's Ark. Like on Centipede's Septober Energy he gathered many musicians around him (this time only 22). Among these were again the creme de la creme of the British fusion scene (Elton Dean, Marc Charig, Hugh Hopper, Julie Tippett and many more). They recorded Frames which is much more experimental then the older releases, pure free jazz with a lot of improvisations. -- Achim Breiling|
[Tippett] was never a member of King Crimson
-- he appeared as a guest on three LPs (In the Wake of Poseidon,
Lizard & Islands) and appeared with Greg Lake and
Robert Fripp on a BBC TV recording of "Cat Food"
in early 1970.
Fripp knew him because he was leading England's premier jazz band: the Keith Tippett Group. They recorded two legendary LPs: You are Here ... I am There (1969) and Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening (1970) (named after the Hugh Hopper song that appears on the second Soft Machine LP). The band featured many musicians who were to become famous later: Elton Dean, sax (before he joined Soft Machine), Marc Charig, cornet (who played on several King Crimson LPs) and Nick Evans, trombone. These four musicians made up the "permanent" group, with bass and drums being filled in. On Dedicated the drummer is the guest Robert Wyatt. (So there's not misunderstanding: All three brass players joined Soft Machine in late '69. Their membership in Keith Tippett's group predates this, even though the recordings were later. I think all three (Dean, Charig & Evans) considered themselves jazz musicians first, and so eagerly agreed to record with Keith for these two LPs.)
After Tippett's group broke up (mainly because Dean and others went on to Soft Machine), Tippett formed Centipede -- this was really a one-off project. It was produced by Fripp and helped solidify their growing relationship.
With his band now gone, Tippett formed a free jazz quartet/trio that recorded under the name "Ovary Lodge". They released three LPs -- the first under Keith's name (Blueprint, RCA 1972, produced by Fripp), the others under the OL name -- (Ovary Lodge, RCA, 1973, also produced by Fripp; and Ovary Lodge, Ogun, 1975). -- Doug Hebbard
|Links||[See Centipede | Dean, Elton | Hopper, Hugh | King Crimson | Mujician | Tippett, Julie]|
|El Profeto (78)|
|Prog concept album, one of the rarest from South America.|
|Armando Tirelli is/was a composer/keyboardist from Uraguay who had other musicians with him to do this beautiful album which apparently has a religious concept to it. This is very nice mellow South American prog which smells of Italian prog all across the board. My only complaint is that there is a narrative voice at parts that tends to spoil some of the music. Other than that, this album is a whole-hearted thumbs up and an underrated classic from the South American scene. If you're into 1970's Italian prog ala PFM, you should like this album. -- Betta|
Armando Tirelli enjoyed considerable commercial success in his native Uruguay as the
keyboard player of the soft-rock group Sexteto Electrônico Moderno and later
had a long career as a player and arranger in Spain between 1980 and 1995. Between his pop
years and expatriation he made El Profeta, a progressive rock concept album based
on The Prophet, a novel by Lebanese author and philosopher Khalil Gibran whose
work had enjoyed renewed popularity in the 1960s. Fashioned as a single suite, El
Profeta starts off in a psychedelic mode, with fuzz guitar over a moderate groove, moody
piano and phased synthesizer drones. Eventually, however, the music takes on a warm lyricism
reminiscent of Italian progressive rock a few years earlier, though distinguished by Spanish
vocals - both solo male and mixed ensemble in a post-Hair musical style - and some
borrowings from South American popular musics. Tirelli employs piano,
Mellotron and synthesizer for a very full
symphonic sound, complementing these with a flute during the serene sections and wailing
guitar during the grandiose melodic climaxes. His playing contains the usual helpings from
Baroque and Romantic-era classical table, but few pyrotechnics. Which is good, because he
sounds least convincing the few times he tries to rock out more - the badly dated funky
fusion sound of "Háblanos del amor" being the iffiest of the lot.
The resulting music is pretty, romantic and never too complex. It can also veer close to mawkish or schmaltzy at times, primarily in a few of the vocal sections that flirt with the syrupy ballada style of contemporaneous Latin pop. Also the spoken narrative parts that superimpose themselves on the music at certain junctures are a melodramatic distraction. The lyrics were lifted not only from The Prophet but also from other pieces of Gibran's alternatively quasi-mystical and proclamatory verse and prose included in the Spanish edition of the novel, but this is no excuse for hammy narration. Also the mix tends to be jumbled and grainy. None of these are fatal flaws, however. While the original LP commands exorbitant prices, the CD re-release (Record Runner RR-0190) is well worth seeking out, if this kind of romantic symphonic rock appeals to you. No better example of the style came out of Uruguay in the seventies. -- Kai Karmanheimo
What's Beyond? (92)
Once Humanity (94)
The Power of Myth (97)
Titus Groan (70)
|Amazing and underated prog work from the early UK era. Sounding like a heavier version of Fruup the album Titus Groan featured on the Dawn label. It has been re-issued on See For Miles with some extra tracks. Drums and Bass impress on the track "Liverpool" which has a very dynamic almost Squire-like bass riff at the end. The mock-medieval "In the Hall of Bright Carvings" is a 14 minute epic and one of the undiscovered gems that can be found on many of these rare UK prog LP's. Great vocal harmonies give way to some splendid organ work and the track is very reminiscent of early Gryphon at times. Other Mervyn Peake inspired tracks litter the album (as they do on Fruup LP's) but overall Titus Groan are hard to define. For instance parts of the LP, like the opening track, "If It Wasn't For You" have a kind of Brass Rock Chicago sound while elsewhere you'll find Bob Dylan covers ("Open The Door, Homer"). A very varied and worthwhile example of the early UK prog style, a band that undeservedly sank in the huge swell of popularity created by the giants of the scene like Yes and Genesis. -- David Abel|