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.

Ricochet, At the Early Edge of Electronica and Rock

Tangerine Dream – Ricochet (Virgin RecordsUniversal, 2019 reissue)

Ricochet was the first live album released by trailblazing German electronic music band Tangerine Dream. The release reviewed here is the remastered 2019 edition that includes the original tracks and great remixes by British musician Steven Wilson.

Tangerine Dream – Ricochet

Although Ricochet is still fundamentally an electronic music album, Tangerine added more guitar and drums, specially on the first half of track 1. This led to a sound closer to electronic rock with melodies playing a larger role. Nevertheless, most of the album is based on fascinating mellotron atmospheres and morphing sequences. Yet another masterful classic release by Tangerine Dream.

The tracks were recorded live in the UK and France during Tangerine Dream’s August–October 1975 European Tour.

The lineup included Peter Baumann on keyboards; Chris Franke on keyboards and drums; and Edgar Froese on keyboards and guitar.

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Two Sides of Brighteye Brison

Brighteye Brison – V

Brighteye Brison – V (Bad Elephant Music, 2019)

This Scandinavian act is marketed as a progressive rock band. However, when you listen to the first two tracks, what you get are pop beats and catchy vocal hooks that recall Supertramp, Queen and AOR groups. Not exactly progressive rock.

It is only on track 3, the longest piece, clocking over 30 minutes that you come upon progressive rock with an outstanding instrumental introduction driven by Chris Squire-style bass, majestic keyboards and great synth solos. There are masterfully crafted sections that are inspired by Gentle Giant’s skilled time signature changes. The vocals are still based on harmonies inspired by Queen, but the pop beats are thankfully gone.

The lineup includes Linus Kåse on piano, synthesizers, saxophone, vocals; Per Hallman on organ, mellotron, synthesizers, vocals; Kristofer Eng Radjabi on bass, taurus, theremin, vocals; Johan Öijen on guitars; and Erik Hammarström on drums.

Artist Profiles: Gong

Gong in 1974

Gong was a psychedelic rock band formed in the late 1960s when Australian musician Daevid Allen was refused entry back into Great Britain following European tour dates with Soft Machine. He decided to stay in Paris, where he began working together with Gilli Smyth and various musicians on what would eventually be recognizable as Gong.

The first recordings from the band were Magick Brother, Mystic Sister in 1970. Followed by albums such as Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, Angels Egg and You. These last three albums followed the fortunes of Zero The Hero and told the tale of the pothead pixies and was told over the course of the three albums and became the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy.

Following the release of You in 1974, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth left Gong and Steve Hillage became the band leader. He also left in 1975 to pursue a solo career. Gong continued in a jazz fusion-oriented direction under Pierre Moerlen, which was very different from the original musical concept of the band.

Gong returned years later and recorded several albums until the death of Daevid Allen. The band continued with a post-Daevid Allen lineup.

Discography:

Magick Brother (1970)
Camembert Electrique (1971)
Continental Circus (1972)
Flying Teapot (1973)
Angel’s Egg (1973)
You (1974)
Shamal (1976)
Shapeshifter (1992)
Zero to Infinity (2000)
Acid Motherhood (2004)
2032 (2009)
I See You (2014)
Rejoice! I’m Dead! (2016)
The Universe Also Collapses (Kscope, 2019)
Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 (Universal, 2019)

Passion for AOR

Intelligent Music Project IV – Sorcery Inside

Intelligent Music Project IV – Sorcery Inside (Intelligent Music, 2019)

The Intelligent Music project goes back to the golden era of AOR (Adult Oriented Rock) in the 1980s. More pop than rock, AOR features catchy hooks, hard rock guitars and steady drum beats. Although progressive rock musicians made AOR, this genre was never part of the progressive rock family.

Composer Milan Vrabevski invited drummer Simon Phillips and several vocalists from popular AOR and hard rock bands: Carl Sentance (Nazareth), Richard Grisman (River Hounds), John Payne (former Asia) and Joseph Williams (Toto). So if you are into the Asia and Toto type of music, you will probably enjoy this recording.

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A Drop of Light, a Masterpiece from Anglagard Founder Johan Brand

All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light (AMS Records, 2018)

All Traps on Earth is remarkable progressive rock band led by Anglagard bassist and composer Johan Brand. He invited fellow Anglagard colleagues Thomas Johnson (keyboards) and Erik Hammarström (drums and percussion) plus various guests, including Brand’s daughter on vocals.

A Drop of Light is a highly complex album where symphonic progressive rock meets jazz-rock and contemporary classical musical forms. Imagine Anglagard jamming with French band Magma plus bits of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator.

All Traps on Earth delivers deeply intense segments with frequent time signature changes and fabulous bass, guitar and keyboard work plus soaring trumpet, wild saxophone and operatic vocals, along with meditative passages full of exquisite mellotron, flute and synths.

All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light

For mellotron fans, this album is a precious gem. Anglagard mastered the use of the mellotron and brought it back to the top. All Traps on Earth continues this tradition, delivering some of the finest mellotron performances in recent years.

The album includes three masterful lengthy tracks with deep Anglagard influences, a fabulous tribute to Magma titled “Magmatic Warning” plus a very brief meditative keyboard piece.

The musicians A Drop of Light are all outstanding. Fans of instrumental progressive rock are in for real treat.

The lineup includes Johan Brand on Mellotron M400 and M4000D, Moog Voyager, Moog Minitaur, organs, Fender Rhodes, clavinet. Rickenbacker 4001 and 4001S basses, Fender Jazz Deluxe bass, Revelation Jazzmaster VI bass, Moog Taurus 1. Epiphone Gibson Les Paul guitar, Green Gibson Les Paul guitar, percussion and vocals; Thomas Johnson on grand pianos, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzers, pianets, clavinet, organs, Mellotron M4000D, and Moog Voyager; Erik Hammarström on drums, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, crotales, timpani, gran cassa, wood blocks, tam-tam, and tubular bells; Miranda Brand on vocals.

Guest: Fredrik Lindborg on bass clarinet, baritone, tenor, alto and soprano sax; Karl Olandersson on trumpet, flugelhorn; Magnus Båge on concert flute; Matthias Bååth on bass and concert flute, tenor and alto recorder; Phil Mercy on organic guitars.

A Drop of Light is an extraordinary master work, undoubtedly one of the finest progressive rock releases of 2018.

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Rubycon, Berlin School Mastery


Tangerine Dream – Rubycon

Tangerine Dream – Rubycon (Virgin Records, 1975/2019 reissue)

Rubycon is part of the reissue set of classic Tangerine Dream electronic music albums. Rubycon was Tangerine Dream’s 6th album, first released in 1975.

The original album includes two tracks, Rubycon Parts 1 and 2. The album begins with layers of synths and mellotrons and mysterious sounds that seem like haunting whale chants. Slowly and gradually, the sequencers drift in, creating an ecstatic, trancelike atmosphere accompanied by bubbling sounds and distant melodies.

This new remastered version includes a bonus track, an extended introduction of Rubycon mixed by progressive music artist Steven Wilson.

The lineup during Rubycon was the same as one ther iconic Phaedra album: Edgar Froese on mellotron, guitar, gong, VCS 3 synthesizer, organ; Chris Franke on double moog synthesizer, Synthi A, organ, modified Elka organ, prepared piano; and Peter Baumann on organ, EMS Synthi A, electric piano, ARP 2600 and prepared piano.

Rubycon refined the trailblazing sound of Tangerine Dream, one of the group’s finest recordings.

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Snarky Puppy, Unrivaled Masters of Funk and Fusion

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance (GroundUp Music, 2019)

Snarky Puppy, the finest funk jazz band in the current scene is back with a superb album titled Immigrance. Band leader Michael League clarifies the title of the album: “The idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we’re all in a constant state of immigration. Obviously the album’s title is not without political undertones.”

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance

The opening track, “Chonks” couldn’t be more spectacular; it starts with fabulous funk keyboards and progresses into outstanding jazz-rock fusion topped by Mark Lettieri’s brilliant guitar solo.

Michael League brings in some of the best young keyboardists to Snarky Puppy’s sessions and that’s what makes the band such a delight. Instead of the tired saxophone solos that other bands utilize, Snarky Puppy has a much modern, edgy sound with the use of electronic keyboards, guitars and a solid brass section.

“Bigly Strictness” is a seductive composition with a wonderful, creative global percussion section, smoky trumpet solo , Shaun Martin’s and Justin Stanton’s fantastic synths solos and mesmerizing gliding guitars. Pure beauty.  

“Coven” begins laid back with intricate bass lines, brass arrangements and forward-thinking trip hop feel. Shaun Martin delivers another masterful synth solo that leads into Chris Queen’s electric guitar solo. Progressive fusion at its best.

The trip hop returns on “Blig Blingi,” a bass-heavy funk piece, where chilled, futuristic keyboards and funk synth solos, dubbed drums, and brass, and complex, but accessible drum beats continue to impress. 

Track 5, “Xavi,” the longest piece on the album is more jazz-fusion oriented, featuring a breathtaking electric violin solo by Zach Brock; and an equally good Minimoog solo by Bobby Sparks. Percussionist Keita Ogawa also gets an opportunity to showcase his talent with an ocean drum solo. The track concludes with a great piano solo by Bill Laurance.

“While We’re Young” features steady funk drum beat, funk synth solo, majestic mellotron and reverb-rich brass.

“Bad Kids to the Back” is perhaps the least striking piece, featuring funk beats and predictable saxophone solo.

The final track, “Even Us” takes the music in a totally different direction, into the realm of contemporary world music, with Michael League picking up the ud. There are references to modern tango, Middle Eastern modes and western chamber music. It’s beautifully-orchestrated and deeply satisfying.

Buy Immigrance

Artist Profiles: Eddie Jobson

Eddie Jobson

Eddie Jobson was born April 28, 1955 in Billingham, United Kingdom.

Eddie Jobson was well known as a teenage ‘rock prodigy’ with the early Roxy Music, and as Frank Zappa’s right-hand-man on both keyboards and electric violin – replacing both Jean Luc Ponty and George Duke at the age of 21.

A keyboardist and electric violinist, he was the co-founder, producer, and principal writer of the legendary progressive rock group UK (band). He formed it together with drummer Bill Bruford (Yes, Genesis, King Crimson), singer/bassist John Wetton (King Crimson), and then-unknown guitar phenom Allan Holdsworth.

After appearing on over 60 albums with many of the rock/fusion genre’s top musicians, Jobson retired from both studio and live performance for more than 20 years until an unannounced appearance in Russia with King Crimson.

Eddie Jobson formed two new projects based on his original ‘UK’ concept: ‘UKZ’ – a five-piece contemporary rock band and ‘U-Z Project’ – an instrumental band of extraordinary virtuosos from around the world, including Michael Jackson’s former guitarist Greg Howe; stick player Michael Bernier (Stick Men); and two world renowned drummers, German drumming sensation Marco Minnemann (UKZ), and British drum legend Simon Phillips (Peter Gabriel, Jeff Beck, Mick Jagger, Toto).

Discography:

Air Cut, with Curved Air ( Warner Bros. Records, 1973)
Stranded, with Roxy Music (Island Records, 1973)
Country Life, with Roxy Music (Island Records, 1974)
Siren, with Roxy Music (Island Records, 1975)
Viva!, with Roxy Music (Island Records, 1976)
Yesterday Boulevard b/w On a Still Night (1976)
Zappa in New York, with Frank Zappa (Reprise, 978)
UK, with U.K. (Polydor, 1978)
Danger Money, with U.K. (Polydor, 1979)
Night After Night, with U.K. (Polydor, 1979)
A, with Jethro Tull (1980)
The Green Album (Capitol Records, 1983)
Theme of Secrets (Private Music, 1985)
Lovechild, with Curved Air (1990)
Concert Classics, Vol. 4, with U.K. (1999)
Voices of Life, with The Bulgarian Women’s Choir—Angelite (2000)
Radiation, with UKZ (2009)
Philly ’76, with Frank Zappa (2009)
Ultimate Zero Tour – Live (Seven Seas, 2010)
Reunion – Live in Tokyo, with U.K. (2013)
Curtain Call, with U.K. (Ward Records, 2015)
Four Decades (2015)
1971-1979 The Band Years (Ward Records, 2018)

Artist Profiles: Djam Karet

Djam Karet in 1985

Djam Karet was founded in 1984 by guitarists Gayle Ellett and Mike Henderson, bassist Henry J. Osborne, and drummer Chuck Oken, Jr. They chose as the band’s name an Indonesian word (pronounced ‘jam care-RAY) that translates loosely as “elastic time”.

Early Djam Karet was a sort of “jam band” whose live, totally improvised performances on the southern California/Los Angeles area college circuit featured a free-form mixture of guitar-dominated instrumental rock and textural Eastern drone music, as on their 1985 release No Commercial Potential.

Djam Karet’s mode of working and repertoire gradually expanded beyond improvisation to include compositional elements, field recordings, and studio work. In 1987 the band released The Ritual Continues. Two years later, they released Reflections From The Firepool.

In 1991, Djam Karet released two separate CDs at the same time: Burning The Hard City and Suspension & Displacement. Three years later in 1994, Djam Karet released the CD Collaborator, with guests musicians: Jeff Greinke, Kit Watkins, Marc Anderson, Steve Roach, Carl Weingarten, and many others.

As the 20th Century drew to a close, Djam Karet signed with Cuneiform Records, and entered a period of unprecedented creative productivity that only accelerated as the 21st century dawned. It began working on new releases for Cuneiform, initiated a program to repackage and reissue its back catalog on Cuneiform, and began playing live on the festival circuit. Live shows were performed at Day Zero for 1999’s ProgDay (San Francisco); at NEARfest 2001, progressive rock’s premier US showcase; ProgWest 2001 (Claremont) and at 2002’s ProgDay (North Carolina). Throughout the years they have also contributed music to 10 compilation releases, both in the United States and in Europe. Many of those pieces are available nowhere else.

Cuneiform’s first Djam Karet CD came out in 1997, titled The Devouring. In 1998, Djam Karet performed on the West and East Coasts, recordings a live album for Cuneiform titled Live At Orion, released in 1999.

The band began to do more work in the studio, resulting in the 2001 release of New Dark Age (Cuneiform) and also the Limited Edition CD release Ascension.

Around the same time as New Dark Age’s release, and complementary to its work with Cuneiform, Djam Karet launched a series of self-released CD-Rs, reissues and limited edition CDs for its fans. Within two years, the band had self-released numerous CD projects, including recordings made at New York City’s The Knitting Factory, an on-air performance recorded at KCRW-FM, and other archival performances. Out of this creative resurgence arose A Night For Baku, which featured new band member Aaron Kenyon on bass. The title derives from Japanese folklore: the Baku are mythical inhabitants of the dream world, valiant warriors who devour nightmares as the spoils of battle. The CD features Djam Karet using more keyboards and electronics, and collaborating on one track with electronic musician Steve Roach, who worked previously with the band on Collaborator.

This new line up as a quintet created Recollection Harvest, two albums on one CD, divided into two chapters. The first-half is filled with their most melodic and jazzy music released so far, with a strong focus on composition and tight arrangements, mellotrons and soulful guitar melodies. The second-half, titled Indian Summer, features a collection of compositions colored with beautiful acoustic guitars and analog synths, and showcases their more atmospheric side.

In 2009 the band was flown to the Bordeaux area of France to headline the annual Crescendo Festival. To achieve a fuller and more massive live sound, the group acquired new member Mike Murray on guitar, allowing Gayle Ellett to focus more exclusively on keyboards. When they returned to the United States they decided to record The Heavy Soul Sessions in 2010, to better document their current live sound. All of the music was performed live-in-studio without any overdubs and no compressors or limiters were used during the recording process.

In 2011 they formed a new record label called Firepool Records, which has released various albums; Herd Of Instinct (self-titled), Hillmen – The Whiskey Mountain Sessions, and Henderson/Oken – Dream Theory In The IE.

Discography:

Happy Cancer: McMusic for the McMasses (1982)
No Commercial Potential (1985)
The Ritual Continues (1987)
Kafka’s Breakfast (1988)
Reflections from the Firepool (1989)
Burning The Hard City (1991 )
Suspension & Displacement (1991)
Collaborator (1994)
The Devouring (1997)
Still no Commercial Potential (Limited Edition) (1998)
Live At Orion (1999)
New Dark Age (2001)
Ascension New Dark Age Vol. 2 (2001)
Afghan (Live At The Knitting Factory) (2002)
A Night for Baku (2003)
Live At NEARfest 2001 (2004)
…And Still Getting The Ladies (2004)
Recollection Harvest (2005)
25th Anniversary Beginner’s Guide (2009)
The Heavy Soul Sessions (2010)
Ukab Maerd: The Waiting Room (2010)
The Trip (HC Productions, 2013)
Regenerator 3017 (2014)
Swamp Of Dreams (HC Productions, 2015)
Sonic Celluloid (HC Productions, 2017)
The Crows Of Dust Fall At Night (HC Productions, 2019)
Beyond The Long Twilight (HC Productions, 2019)
A Sky Full Of Stars For A Roof (HC Productions, 2019)

Related articles: Interview with Gayle Ellett of Djam Karet


Sverre Knut Johansen’s Spellbinding, Deep Sonic Landscapes

Sverre Knut Johansen with Robert Rich – Precambrian (Spotted Peccary, 2019)

Norwegian electronic music instrumentalist and composer Sverre Knut Johansen takes the listener on a mesmerizing voyage across the prehistoric progress of planet Earth and its inhabitants. He is joined by the great musician, sound investigator and composer Robert Rich.

Sverre Knut Johansen with Robert Rich – Precambrian

Together, Johansen and Rich create a splendid set of electronic music pieces that incorporate ambient textures, cinematic passages, soaring melodies and spellbinding sequencers combining electronics, samples, sound effects and natural sounds.

Each musical piece on Precambrian takes the listener through important geological periods and evolutionary occasions of Earth’s 4.6 billion year history.

The epochs on Earth are an exciting topic for me,” says Johansen, “so I was inspired to create an album around the concept of the Earth’s geological time scale. The music is epoch-based where I try to convey with nature sounds what might have happened on Earth, creating moods around certain events that have taken place, like oxygen, birds, water, and ice.”

The physical CD version of the album is beautifully packaged, featuring a trifold package and a gorgeous booklet, filled with stunning photography.

Buy Precambrian