All posts by Angel Romero

Angel Romero has been writing about progressive music and world music for many years. Publications include Eurock (USA), Marquee (Japan), and Nuevas Músicas (Spain). He founded the websites progressiverockcentral.com and worldmusiccentral.org. Angel also produced Musica NA, a music show for TVE (Spain) featuring fusion, avant-garde, world music, new age and electronic artists.

A Master of Fusion Drumming

Lenny White - Anomaly
Lenny White

Anomaly (Abstract Logix, 2011)

Drummer Lenny White is a legendary name in jazz fusion. He has played with some of the best and most innovative musicians in the field. He was a member of Return to Forever and has performed with Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke. Anomaly is his first solo album in 10 years and above all it is a master lesson in jazz and rock drumming.

The majority of the album contains jazz-rock in various forms. The Return to Forever essence is evident in several pieces, with guitar nods to Al Di Meola and Chick Corea-inspired keyboards. Although White rocks out in various parts of the album with turbo charged beats, he also ventures into funk jazz.

Contemporary jazz has been hijacked by easy listening melodies and Lenny White does not believe in wimpy music. I’ve been very critical of some of the current progressive rock groups who dumb down their music with heavy metal riffs to make their sound more powerful. Lenny White’s guest guitarists show you how you can deliver dazzling and blistering electric work that is creative and energetic at the same time. Guitar players include Nick Moroch (a former member of White’s Astral Pirates), David Gilmore, Tom Guarna and David Bendeth. On keyboards we find some of the best players: George Colligan, Bernard Wright, Donald Blackman (another Astral Pirate) and Vince Evans. Bassists featured include the legendary Return to Forever maestro Stanley Clarke as well as a new generation of top of ther line players: Victor Bailey, Richie Goods, and Charles Fambrough.

Anomaly is a phenomenal album of gripping jazz-rock fusion by Lenny White, one of the great jazz drum maestros of our time, accompanied by some of the hottest musicians in the fusion genre.

Listen to samples and buy CD or MP3s:

Bostock’s Whereabouts

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick 2
Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson

TAAB2
(Chrysalis/EMI, 2012)

The eagerly anticipated album by Ian Anderson, founder and leader of Jethro Tull is now available. TAAB2 or Thick As A Brick 2 revisits the life of Gerald Bostock. Those familiar with the original Thick As A Brick album will remember the attention-grabbing and humorous stories featured in the fictitious newspaper that served as album sleeve. Gerald Bostock was the spectacled child featured in Thick As A Brick. If you ever wondered what happened to him, Ian Anderson may have some answers.

The theme of this anniversary “part two” album is to examine the possible different paths that the precocious young schoolboy, Gerald Bostock, might have taken later in life and to create alter-ego characters whose song-section identities illustrate the hugely varied potential twists and turns of fate and opportunity,” says Anderson. “Not just for Gerald but to echo how our own lives develop, change direction and ultimately conclude through chance encounters and interventions, however tiny and insignificant they might seem at the time.”

Thick As A Brick 2 follows the Gerald Bostock saga with music that will please Jethro Tull fans. Ian Anderson’s unique voice has aged well, like a good wine. He treats the listener to a series of songs, narrations and flute performances that demonstrate that he is still a major musical force. Anderson’s flute performs solo and intertwined with Florian Opahle’s guitar. The primary keyboard used throughout the album is the electric organ, which adds yet another familiar element to Anderson’s music.

The band on Thick As A Brick 2 includes veteran musicians as well as a new generation of players. Performers featured in the album include Ian Anderson on vocals, flute and guitar; John O’Hara on organ, piano and keyboards; David Goodler on bass; Florian Opahle on guitar, Scott Hammond on drums and percussion, with additional vocals by Ryan O’Donnell and Pete Judge on horns.

Actually, I played much more acoustic guitar than usual on this record having written most of the music on that instrument,” says Anderson. “But there are still sections conceived on the flute and sometimes – quite often, in fact – the lyric writing preceded all the melodies and harmonic structures. Starting with lyrics and then thinking of the music is not normally the way I work but it was here. A title, a few words or a verse or two and then the acoustic guitar was immediately to hand to conjure up a full song section out of the growing lyrics. Having a plan was important. Stories to tell made it all easier. The imagination-filled process of thinking how things might have turned out for the young and older Gerald kept me fascinated. Maybe you will be too. And maybe not.”

The special edition 2-CD set includes the audio CD and a DVD with 5.1 stereo mixes, 24-bit stereo mix, video of the making of the album, interviews with the musicians and Ian Anderson reading the lyrics in different settings.

Thick As A Brick 2 is another memorable album by Ian Anderson with his carefully crafted and recognizable mix of rock, classical, jazz and folk music elements.

My River Flows

IZZ - My River Flows
IZZ

My River Flows (Doone Records, 2005)

IZZ’s fourth album, My River Flows, shows a mature, skilled and cohesive band. The album begins with ‘My River Flows’ a hard rocking pieces that is probably the least interesting. Paul Bremner, who is an excellent guitarist, needlessly saturates the piece with hard rock riffs.

After hearing another hard rock intro, I was afraid that ‘Late Night Salvation’ was going to go in the same direction as ‘My River Flows.’ Thankfully, ‘Late Night Salvation’ is an excellent piece with a truly spectacular long electric guitar solo by Paul Bremner, an equally excellent drum performance by Greg DiMiceli and a masterful closing synthesizer solo by Tom Galgano.

As in previous albums, IZZ incorporates ear catching pop hooks. This is the case of ‘Rose Colored Lenses’ which begins in very pop mode and ends with another of those fabulous, but too short synth solos by Tom Galgano.

‘Deception’ features a synthesizer melody that would make Kit Watkins proud. And for the first time in the album, Laura Meade’s outstanding vocals get to have a leading role. In the finest symphonic rock tradition, ‘Deception’ ends with a mellotron and guitar grand finale.

In addition to the progressive rock masters, The Beatles is one of the main inspirations of the band. The first part of ‘Crossfire’ could be best described as Beatles with mellotron and Chris Squire-style bass. The lengthy piece later morphs into Yes-influenced sounds.

The Beatles’ aura refuses to go and continues in ‘Anything I Can Dream.’ The song is followed by an acoustic guitar-fueled lullaby titled ‘Abby’s Song.’

The core of the album is the final track, ‘Deafening Silence,’ a 21-minute masterpiece. This well-conceived composition contains the various elements that make progressive rock great: a mesmerizing introduction, captivating instrumental passages and arrangements, dreamy and intense moments, outstanding vocal work, and a climactic conclusion.

The line-up on My River Flows includes Tom Galgano on keyboards, lead vocals; John Galgano on bass, guitar, keyboards, lead and backing vocals; Paul Bremner on lead guitar; Brian Coralian on electronic and acoustic drums and percussion, programming; Greg DiMiceli on acoustic drums and percussion; Anmarie Byrnes on vocals; and Laura Meade on vocals.

Overall, My River Flows is an impressive recording by IZZ, one of the finest progressive rock acts in the United States. IZZ features skilled instrumentalists and three of the best vocalists in the current progressive rock genre.

Four on the Floor

Secret Saucer - Four on the Floor
Secret Saucer

Four on the Floor (Secret Saucer SFS004, 2011)

For its most recent album, space rock band Secret Saucer decided to make more cohesive pieces. Their outstanding blend of synths and guitar is still there, but the compositions are a little shorter and the band throws in a few surprises and interesting twists.

After a very brief introduction, the album opens with ‘Time Spent Out Of Mind,’ a fast paced guitar-led piece with a drum beat that borders on rockabilly. I envision this track used in a Robert Rodriguez film.

The rhythm slows down considerably in ‘Lunar Pull’, a trance-like mesmerizing song with robotized vocals and superb solo synthesizer and guitar interplay.

On ‘Daedal’ the band goes into jam rock fashion, incorporating Middle Eastern influenced guitars dueling with the synthesizers.

Next comes a delicate song with regular vocals, a rarity in Secret Saucer, which is known for its instrumental pieces. ‘Awaken’ features a mix of acoustic guitars and delightful synthesizers.

As the title indicates, ‘The Dark Rift’ has a darker ambiance, with dense atmospheres inspired by early Tangerine Dream.

‘Celestial Spigot’ could be best described as space rock meets Canterbury. Guest saxophonist Greg Klucher jams with the band, adding a tasty jazz element that brings the overall sound close to the great Canterbury-style progressive rock.

The dreamlike ‘Four On The Floor’ features wailing guitars and intricate mellotron and synths. The keyboard work at times is reminiscent of the great French space rock band Pulsar.

‘Aegean Bridge’ has more of a rock feel, blending guitar riffs with synth solos and bubbly sounds.

The short piece ‘Notch’ takes the band into deep space territory, with drones and atmospheres. It’s an appropriate prequel to the last cut on the album, Secret Saucer’s rendition of the early Pink Floyd classic ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets.’ It’s a fine tribute to the late Richard Wright, Pink Floyd’s keyboard player.

The line-up on this album includes Ted Boburka on drums and synthesizers; Steve Hayes on synthesizers; Dave Hess on synthesizers and glissando guitar; Billy Spear on bass; Dan Schnell on guitar and synthesizers; Greg Kozlowski on guitar, synthesizers. They are joined by special guests Nick Riff on guitar and Greg Klucher on saxophone.

Four on the Floor is another winner by Secret Saucer, one of the finest purveyors of progressive space rock in the current musical scene.

Beyond the Shrouded Horizon

Steve Hackett - Beyond the Shrouded Horizon
Steve Hackett

Beyond the Shrouded Horizon (Inside Out Music, 2011)

Of all the former Genesis musicians, guitarist Steve Hackett is the one that has foremost kept the progressive rock torch alive. Throughout his solo career, Hackett has explored various musical genres, including progressive rock, classical, blues-rock, pop and folk. Beyond the Shrouded Horizon brings together all of these genres influences, although the pop influences are thankfully minimal.

Steve Hackett is one of the finest guitarists in the progressive rock arena. As such, Beyond the Shrouded Horizon treats the listener to an excellent collection of solos and beautiful melodies performed on a variety of electric and acoustic guitars, using different techniques, such as his magnificent slide guitar style.

The album opens with a couple of rockers with heavy drums. Thankfully it’s not heavy metal. On ‘Loch Lomond’ Hackett easily moves between rock and Scottish folk music, from electric to acoustic guitars. ‘The Phoenix Flown’ is an electric guitar instrumental, where Hackett shows at times that he can shred as well as any of today’s top electric guitar players.

On track 3, ‘Wanderlust,’ Hackets performs one of his short but exquisite acoustic pieces. It segues into ‘Til’ These Eyes’ a song featuring acoustic guitars and delicate symphonic arrangements.

‘Prairie Angel’ begins as an anthemic instrumental (bass) with electric guitar that begins in progressive rock style and soon morphs into a heavy blues-rock piece.

Next comes ‘A Place Called Freedom’, where Hackett incorporates his beautiful Genesis-era acoustic guitar arpeggios, fabulous electric guitar solos and symphonic arrangements.

‘Between the Sunset and the Coconut Palms’ has a nostalgic feel. It is followed by ‘Waking to Life,’ a pop piece with some world music elements.

‘Two Faces of Cairo’ is one of the best cuts on the album. It’s a captivating and energetic progressive rock piece with superb Arabic inspired electric guitar.

Next comes a ballad titled ‘Looking for Fantasy.’ It’s followed by another signature acoustic guitar gem titled ‘Summer’s Breath.’

Blues-rock returns with the rocker ‘Catwalk.’ The album ends with the longest piece on the album, titled ‘Turn This Island Earth.’ One would think that this is the usual epic many progressive rock artists feature in their albums. However, it’s a collage of various styles and not a grand finale. The suite has variety of moods that includes ominous symphonic parts, pop sections, and hard rockin’ guitar.

Beyond the Shrouded Horizon is a cinematic collection of new pieces, spanning various genres, by one of the UK’s finest rock guitarists, who showcases his talent and skill as a versatile guitarist.

New Progressive Rock Festival Farfest to Be Held in Wilmington, Delaware

Latte E Miele in 1972
Farfest is a new progressive rock festival that will focus on 1970s and contemporary 70s-sounding progressive rock bands. The first Farfest will take place at the Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware on October 4th – 7th, 2012.

The goal of Farfest is to showcase legendary 1970s progressive rock bands that a lot of music fans only dreamed of ever seeing live and bring them all together in one festival. “Since the 70’s era of performing musicians will soon be drawing to a close the time is now for such an event so we offer you this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these classic bands perform,” said Greg Walker, one of the organizers of the festival.

Line-up:

Alphataurus (Italy)
Anekdoten (Sweden)
Atoll (France)
Cressida (U.K.)
Latte E Miele (Italy)
Locanda Delle Fate (Italy)
Maxophone (Italy)
Mezquita (Spain)
Pulsar (France)
SBB (Poland)
Shylock (France)
Wobbler (Norway)

The final band will be announced soon.

The website is www.farfest.com and has all the details regarding the festival: line-up, tickets, hotels, travel etc.

Night of the Prog Returns to World Heritage Town Loreley

The 7th edition of the Night of the Prog festival is set to take place on July 7th and 8th 2012. The festival includes a mix of progressive rock, AOR and heavy metal bands (prog metal). Night of the Prog is staged at Loreley (Germany), a UNESCO world heritage site, which has one of the most outstanding open air amphitheaters in Europe, high above the river Rhine.

The line-up this year includes Frequency Drift, Enochian Theory, Hasse Fröberg & The Musical Companion, Airbag, Lazuli, Sylvan, Haken, The Flower Kings, Arena, Spock´s Beard, Steve Hackett, Saga and Katatonia. 12 of 13 bands are confirmed.

The highlights of the past 6 years have been the appearances of Eloy, Fish, Asia, Jethro Tull, Roger Hodgson, Steve Hackett, Tangerine Dream, Klaus Schulze, and Marillion.

“The tradition to supply a stage for young and emergent bands is one of our major tasks,” says Winfried Völklein of WiV Entertainment GmbH. “To give them the chance to play in front of thousands of people will definitely help to create a career.”

More at: http://www.wiventertainment.com

Fast And Blue

Lisa LaRue 2KX - Fast and Blue
Lisa LaRue 2KX

Fast And Blue (Fingerwoven/First People Media, 2011)

Keyboardist and composer Lisa LaRue is one of the great revelations in recent months in the progressive rock arena. Her new album Fast And Blue reveals one of the rising talents in the symphonic progressive rock category.

Fast And Blue
is primarily instrumental and Lisa LaRue has assembled an impressive cast of musicians. Her band comprises herself on keyboards, Steve Adams of the prog duo ARZ on guitars and bass, and Merrill Hale, the other component of ARZ, on drums. Guests include Don Schiff on NS stick, John Payne (Asia) on vocals, cellist Mike Alvarez, guitarist Mitch Perry (Edgar Winter Group, MSG, Cher and more), vocalist Michael Sadler (Saga), keyboardist Ryo Okumoto (Spock’s Beard and GPS) and backing vocalist Maxi Nil (Visions of Atlantis).

The epic ‘Prometheus’ (track 2) is one of the highlights, a 17:58 mini-symphony that weaves virtuoso keyboard work by LaRue, outstanding guitar creation and a potent rhythm section with orchestral percussion.

The epic is followed by another gem, a delightful neoclassical acoustic piece titled ‘Tryptych’ which is based on the sound of superb acoustic guitars, masterful cello and dreamy reverberating piano.

Track 4, ‘Jam Jehan Nima’ is the second longest piece. It begins with soaring electric guitars, rich symphonic keyboard harmonies and captivating synth solos that lead into an exploratory section and mesmerizing Benedictine chant. However, close to the end of the composition, the music enters hard rock territory. I don’t think hard rock or heavy metal belongs in progressive rock and LaRue could have gone in a more interesting direction.

Things get back to solid progressive rock on ‘Lament of the Cherokee/Ruins of Home.’ The piece has two parts. The first section is a spoken word tribute to the Cherokee tribe. Lisa LaRue has Cherokee heritage and is an enrolled member of the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians in Oklahoma, which are descendants of the North Carolina natives that were sent to Oklahoma. The second part of the composition is purely instrumental with state of the art prog rock featuring outstanding intertwining guitar work.

‘Fast and Blue’ (track 6) features vocals by John Payne. They are good rock vocals, but better suited for hard rock or AOR. It’s probably the most radio friendly song and therefore, the least interesting.

The album concludes with ‘Recurring Dream’. The song begins with a great keyboard introduction, although brief, that leads into another unimpressive vocal piece.

Keyboardist and composer Lisa LaRue has recorded an impressive album, rich in detail. She shows tremendous potential in the progressive rock genre and I look forward to hearing more of her work.

Interview with Carlos Plaza on Kotebel’s Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble

Carlos Guillermo Plaza Vegas
Madrid-based symphonic progressive rock band Kotebel has released a new album titled Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble. Kotebel’s current line-up includes Carlos Franco Vivas on drums and percussion; César Garcia Forero on guitars; Jaime Pascual Summers on bass; Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke on keyboards; and Carlos Guillermo Plaza Vegas on keyboards.

Kotebel has released 5 albums since 2000, including the much-admired ‘Omphalos.’ The main body of Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble is formed by the four movements that comprise the ‘Concerto for Piano. There are four additional pieces on the album that are based on conceptual elements.

Kotebel’s music is an approachable amalgam of avant-garde symphonic rock influenced by classical music, jazz and world music.

Composer and keyboardist Carlos Plaza reveals details about Kotebel and its new album Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble in this interview with Progressive Rock Central.

Tell us a little about the origin of Kotebel?

Kotebel was born at the end of the nineties. Originally it was meant to be a studio project, and the aim was to enrich my language as a composer with resources from rock, jazz, etc. During most of the nineties I wrote chamber music, with a language heavily based in an impressionist language, also influenced by 20th century composers like Ginastera, Stravinsky or Rachmaninov.

Kotebel - Omphalos
After releasing “Fragments of Light” in 2003, I was invited to participate in BajaProg 2004. I assembled some musicians that participated in previous albums and newcomers like Jaime Pascual with the idea to do a unique set of concerts, ending with the one in BajaProg. The experience led to the concept of Kotebel as a band, and it has evolved until its current configuration as an instrumental quintet. So you can divide Kotebel in two distinct phases: the first three albums as a personal studio project, and the last three as a band.

Omphalos” was the only album with the configuration that we presented in BajaProg (7 members – including flute and voice) and the last two: “Ouroboros” and “Concerto”, as the stable configuration that we have enjoyed since the end of 2007.

What is the meaning of the band’s name, Kotebel?

Kotebel is a word made up by my daughter Adriana when she was about 3 years old. She used that word to refer to any language other than Spanish. Back then I had some British colleagues and when she heard us speaking in English, she would say that we were speaking in “Kotebel”. When I had the idea to create the project, this word came instantly to my mind and I never hesitated. Later, I realized it was a great idea to use a new word because it is very easy to find references in the Internet. Except for minor references to a region in Ukraine (Koktebel), all search engines point to us.

Some have described Kotebel as Venezuelan-Spanish. What is the Venezuelan connection?

Carlos Franco Vivas
I was born in Venezuela and moved to Spain 22 years ago. In fact, I come from a family with a long musical tradition in Venezuela. My father was also a composer and dedicated a fair part of his life teaching several generations of musicians. Carlos Franco is also Venezuelan and my daughter, despite the fact that she was born in Madrid, has close ties to Venezuela since most of our family is still there. From a musical point of view, there are many references to Venezuelan folklore; in some cases very explicit (the piece ‘Joropo’ in “Omphalos” is based on a Venezuelan rhythm in 3/8) and in others (many) is hidden in our music. For example, Carlos Franco, who is a percussionist expert in Venezuelan music, incorporates many references to local rhythmic patterns.

This thing about Kotebel being Venezuelan or Spanish (or both) has been raised in other occasions and has created some controversy. I think Kotebel’s language is rather universal because my musical language is heavily based in universal classical composers, or the classic 70’s prog bands; many of them from the UK, but others from Italy or the US. So it doesn’t make too much sense to argue where Kotebel is from. It is nothing more than occidental contemporary Art-Music.

What kind of musical training do the band members have?

Cesar García Forero
Carlos Franco is a classically trained percussionist who started working in classical orchestras and worked his way into jazz, world music and later into rock (basically my fault I guess…). Adriana has been studying music since she was three; in fact, she learned to distinguish notes in a score before learning how to read. She completed her intermediate classical studies in piano (10 years) at the age of 17 and is now studying contemporary music and jazz in Madrid.

Both César and Jaime have gone through formal studies to some extent, but they are in essence self-taught musicians. In my case, I started learning music very young and was fortunate to have a great teacher at home. I continued my musical studies (piano, theory, harmony, etc.) until I graduated from college at the age of 23. When I moved to Spain I had the privilege of studying composition with Román Alis, an excellent Spanish classical composer who died a few years ago.

Tell us a little about the members of the band.

Jaime Pascual
Carlos Franco is an accomplished percussionist who also plays the drums. That explains his fresh approach to drumming; sometimes he sounds as a jazz drummer, sometimes as an African or rather Afro-Venezuelan percussionist. His playing style reminds me a lot of [Bill] Bruford.

Jaime Pascual is a precision engine; he works in other projects much denser and harsher than Kotebel. Jaime is very talented and creative; his ideas always come to enrich my initial arrangements (well, this can be said for all Kotebel members).

César is an amazing guitar player, and very versatile. I was impressed to see how he was able to stand up to the challenge of combining electric, acoustic and Spanish guitar in the Piano Concerto. He is also a very talented composer and has contributed many fine songs in several Kotebel albums.

Adriana joined Kotebel when she was 16 and, already then, she had achieved a level as a performer that I would never reach. I wrote the Piano Concerto, but would not be able to play it like she does. She feels at ease in front of a stage piano or a synthesizer and her ability to engage tightly, even in very complex passages, is simply amazing. She belongs to that privileged group of musicians that make you think that what they are playing is easy because it looks and sounds effortless. And… sharing the stage with my daughter is an indescribable feeling.

How did Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble come about?

From the very beginning when I created Kotebel, I had the clear objective of merging my experience as a classical and rock musician. I felt that there was still a lot to be done in terms of combining elements of both, so that the end result was more than the mere sum of its parts. The Pentacle Suite, Ouroboros (Theme and Variations) and many other pieces are rock animals with a “classical” or “academic” soul if I can put it that way. You can take most songs and see that the way themes and motifs are presented and developed, is very classical. Also, many resources used in classical composition like anticipation, reduction, augmentations, mirroring, etc., are used.

Adriana Plaza Engelke
There is no difference in my approach to writing a piece for Kotebel or a classical piece for a chamber configuration. So the “Concerto” is a natural consequence of many years’ effort. I think that the Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble is the piece where I have been able to take that integration to its highest level. I had been entertaining the idea of writing a Piano Concerto for several years, but it wasn’t until after releasing “Ouroboros” that I felt properly equipped for this task. It is the most demanding piece I have ever written.

I want to take this opportunity to clarify something that has been pointed out by some reviewers and musicians that have already given me some feedback on the album. Some feel that the album should have ended on the 4th movement because the rest of the pieces in the album are entirely another “breed”. Well, I was happy to hear that because it was exactly my intention. I wanted the rest of the album to act as a counterbalance to the more “academic” or “dense” ideas presented in the Concerto. In addition, I wanted to write some songs under a “less is more” approach; in other words, see how far could I go keeping things as simple as possible. In that respect, I think The Flight of The Hippogriff part II stands out. Also, it is not an accident that there is no acoustic piano in the rest of the pieces (except the Bonus track). So, if you feel like listening to a more “rockish” and “direct” Kotebel, you can start listening to the album from track 5 onwards. It’s like two albums in one.

Who can you cite as Kotebel’s main musical influences?

That’s a difficult question because the sources are diverse. From my perspective, you have to combine classical composers like Ravel or Ginastera or Messiaen, with rock composers ranging from [Keith] Emerson and [Tony] Banks to Daniel Denis (Univers Zero). Carlos Franco incorporates jazz, Venezuelan folkloric music. Adriana is a lot into film music and jazz. Jaime and Cesar are both living music encyclopedias. When they start talking about musicians and bands, I cannot recognize more than half of the names…. What I can say is that all of us know and appreciate progressive rock very well.

How does the composition process work?

Kotebel - Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble
All of Kotebel compositions have been written by César or by me. The process is similar: we write the music using a sequencer as the main tool and we create a MIDI template. We distribute the parts to each musician so they can become acquainted with the piece and the proposed arrangement. When we get together, we have already studied our parts and are ready to suggest changes or directly start assembling the piece. In my case, I usually accept what they suggest because they are extremely talented musicians. In short, César or I write the music, and the arrangements are more of a collective effort. What we have never done (definitely due to my academic background and also lack of time) is to write together based on fragments or ideas from different band members.

Where does Kotebel get inspiration from?

You can see from the themes in the different albums, that my inspiration sources are very diverse; however, there is one that stands out: poems written by Nathalye, my wife. They have been a constant source of inspiration, even before Kotebel. I have many songs for voice and piano and even instrumental music, based on her poems. She is responsible for the lyrics in “Fragments of Light” and “Omphalos”. In some cases, they were pre-existing poems; in other cases, she wrote the poem with a specific song in mind.

Some pieces are based in Western philosophical / spiritual works like “Mysticae Visiones”, others from Eastern sources (e.g. “Dance of Shiva”). Some are derived from Magic and Alchemy like the “Pentacle Suite”, or other sources like Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings which is the source of all creatures represented in the album “Ouroboros” or the “Flight of the Hippogriff”. Of course, there are also pieces of “pure” music, with no extra-musical relationship. The best example is the Piano Concerto.

Tell us about your first recordings.

Kotebel - Fragments of Light
From “Structures” until “Fragments of Light”, Kotebel was still a personal project. In these albums I played the drums and bass in addition to the keyboards and had different musicians invited as guests. They were recorded in my project studio, with very limited resources; however, if you look at them from the right perspective, they had to be exactly as they turned out to be in order to follow the path that led to the second phase of Kotebel as a band. I wish I had Carlos Franco and Jaime Pascual back then, and in fact I have the project of releasing a revised version of “Mysticae Visiones”.

How’s the progressive rock scene in Madrid and Spain in general?

Art-Music in general suffers in Spain from lack of support from the media and the public sector. I know this is the case everywhere, but in Spain the situation is particularly acute. It is not easy to find alternative proposals; consumption of commercial music is massive… This scenario of course is not adequate for the proliferation of progressive rock. However, there are excellent bands trying to make their way and we try to help each other out.

Nathalye and I organized 2 very successful editions of Madrid Art Music Festival in 2008 and 2009, with bands like After Crying, Trettioariga Kriget and renowned musicians like Jerry Marotta, who played with the Argentinean stick player Guillermo Cides. We also had the pleasure of presenting the Spanish band Galadriel, who had not played live for quite some years. We plan to continue organizing the festival, but we are waiting for the economic conditions to improve.

Are you full time musicians?

Kotebel live
As most progressive rock bands, we do not make a living out of our activity in Art-Music. Carlos and Adriana are music teachers but this is only a part-time activity.

The positive side of this situation is that we do not have to compromise our music due to economic concerns. We do the type of music that we want to do, play where we like and go at the pace we feel comfortable. Even though the live aspect is important and we enjoy it very much, to me the essential aspect of what we do is what we leave behind in terms of recorded material.

If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?

I hope we can continue to work with bands similar to the ones with whom we have worked in the past and have become dear friends. Among others; After Crying, Koenjihyakkei and other Japanese bands (KBB, Baraka, Interpose+), the French band Yang (ex-Shylock, ex-Philarmonie) and fabulous Spanish bands like Senogul or October Equus. I’m in talks with several British, Italian and Belgian bands in order to do some collaboration, but this is in a very early stage so I cannot disclose names yet.

Do you have any plan to take Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble on the road?

We have confirmed concerts in Madrid (June 30th and July 12th), Austria (August 8th) and two additional concerts in Madrid in September and October. Depending on current conversations, we might add additional concerts in other Spanish cities, and the UK before the end of the year. The best way to stay updated on our live calendar and other relevant Kotebel news, is to join our Fans List at kotebel.com

Are you working on other projects?

Kotebel - Mysticae Visiones
We are still not working in new material for a next album. Our next important project is a 2-hour concert that we will do in Madrid at the end of October, with the intention of releasing our first live DVD. The concert will include a full rendition of the Piano Concerto, as well as material from our previous albums. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I want to work on a revised version of “Mysticae Visiones”. The idea is to re-record drums and basses but I want to preserve all the other original tracks. I also plan to recover some of the songs in the first few albums, and record them live with new arrangements. So we plan to still keep quite busy….

Listen to samples and purchase MP3s:

Buy CD:

kotebel.com/e-store/index.php

Space Rock Maestros

Beyond-O-Matic - Time to Get Up
Beyond-O-Matic

Time To Get Up (Trail Records, 2010)

Beyond-O-Matic was a San Francisco-based space rock band that unfortunately is no longer active. This album is as far as I know Beyond-O-Matic’s second and final recording and it is progressive space rock at its finest. Time To Get Up contains dreamy and flowing music, with captivating psychedelic vocals and extended trance-like jams featuring outstanding synthesizer and guitar work along with less conventional instruments such as electric accordion, flute, melodeon, and harmonium.

The pieces featured in Time To Get Up were recorded 2003-2004. At the time, Beyond-O-Matic included composer and multi-instrumentalist Peter Fuhry on guitars, vocals, flute, accordion, bass, effects; Stenzo on synthesizer, samples, effects; Anthony Koutsos on drums; and David Jayne on drums and tabla. Guest musicians who participated in the sessions include Melody Paine on bass, Rachel Shane Shultz on bass, KJ Luker on backing vocals.

Trail Records has been doing an admirable job, recovering lost progressive rock gems in the areas of psychedelic and space rock. They tracked down this album and remastered it, giving Time To Get Up improved sound quality and new life. The CD came out in 2010.

Time To Get Up is a masterful collection of highly creative laid back space rock. It’s a must have for any space rock music fan.