Rock band Circa was expected to be one of the great new progressive rock bands in recent years. With two former Yes members, Tony Kaye on keyboards and Billy Sherwood on guitars and vocals, there is definitely a strong Yes connection. The band has a formidable rhythm section formed by Ronnie Ciago on drums and an excellent bassist that does not appear in the credits. Guitarist Johnny Bruhns is the fourth member of the band.
I used the term rock band because there is little progressive rock in And So On. The album begins with a strong piece, with rich instrumentation that will remind the listener of early Yes. However, the vocals are weak (literally) and the songs are better described as 1980s-style AOR and hard rock. The best instrumental work on the album is provided by the lead guitar and bass.
‘And So On’ is the 4th release by Circa. “Although the album was not written as a concept record, the songs are somehow tied together and are all symbiotic,” Billy Sherwood explains, “it’s really just an evolution of Circa: music. This is our 3rd Studio release.”
The new album by Dutch artist Synth.nl is an electronic music tribute to the Apollo Moon project. The musician behind Synth.nl is Michel van Osenbruggen. His music has the melodic sensibility of Vangelis and the spacey atmospheric environments of Tangerine Dream.
Synth.nl illustrates the Apollo Moon missions with a rich palette of dramatic, melodic and ambient synthesizers and electronic beats. He also uses NASA audio archives with voices from mission control, the astronauts and the people behind the project.
Michel van Osenbruggen provides information about each piece and details about the various Apollo missions. “For this album, I was inspired by the Apollo Moon missions, undertaken by NASA during the 60’s and 70’s of the previous century,” says van Osenbruggen. “Since I was born in 1969, the same year that Neil Amstrong set foot on the Moon, I have always felt a very strong connection to this event. Listening to this album will take you on a voyage from the Earth to the Moon and back again.”
Michel van Osenbruggen was born in The Netherlands on the 23th of April 1969. He started collecting synthesizers in 1990 because of his fascination with electronics. “Even though I produced a lot of sounds back then, I first started producing my own music in 2005 when I was at home with a burn-out from work.”
Synth.nl has released four solo albums so far: ‘AeroDynamics’ in 2007, ‘AtmoSphere’ in 2008, ‘OceanoGraphy’ in 2009 and ‘Apollo’ in 2011. In 2010, he released a collaboration album called ‘Refuge en Verre’, together with his good friend Ron Boots. Ron also runs the Groove Unlimited label that releases all of Synth.nl ‘s music.
Apollo is a skillful blend of space music and melodic electronic music by one of the finest acts in the current European electronic music scene.
The latest offering by progressive rock band Glass Hammer contains all the ingredients that make this musical genre so special: superb musicianship and captivating artwork. Cor Cordium begins with a suite loaded with state of the art keyboard work that includes glorious mellotron, organ and synthesizers.
Cor Cordium is Glass Hammer’s fourteenth studio album. It’s a follow-up to last year’s much-admired album titled If. It’s a delight to see a band that continues to develop long-form symphonic pieces of epic nature. Cor Cordium contains four suites, all of which are over ten minutes long, and two shorter pieces. If you like a mix of vocal parts with state of the art keyboard and guitar work, then you’ll really enjoy this latest offering by Glass Hammer.
Stylistically, the band is clearly influenced by the British masters of the early 1970s. Yes appears as a strong influence, especially in the vocals, guitars and some of the keyboard work. However, keyboardist Fred Schendel also displays influences from Keith Emerson and the band goes into Gentle Giant and fusion territory on track 3, ‘Salvation Station’ and folk rock in a section of ‘Dear Daddy’.
The line-up on this album includes Fred Schendel on keyboards, steel guitar, backing vocals; Steve Babb on bass guitar, keyboards, backing vocals; Jon Davison on lead vocals, acoustic guitars; and Alan Shikoh on electric and acoustic guitars and sitar. They are joined by Randall Williams on drums, Jeffrey Sick on violin on ‘Dear Daddy’ and Ed Davis on viola on ‘Dear Daddy.’
“We never set out to make If Volume 2,” says Babb. “But we are definitely heading in the same direction musically. Fans that loved IF are going to be equally excited about Cor Cordium.”
The CD version comes with captivating fantasy artwork and a 16 page full-color layout by artist Tom Kuhn and audiophile mastering by Bob Katz of Digital Domain.
Cor Cordium is a lovely and beautifully crafted progressive rock album by one of the finest bands in the genre.
Swedish band My Brother The Wind continues the fine tradition of progressive psychedelic rock. Their new album is I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity and it is a mesmerizing series of dreamy instrumental pieces.
The band was formed by members from other well-known Swedish progressive rock acts: Nicklas Barker (Anekdoten) on guitar and mellotron; Mathias Danielsson (Makajodama, Gösta Berlings Saga) on guitar and tenor recorder; Ronny Eriksson (Magnolia) on bass; and Tomas Eriksson on drums.
The dual electric guitars are heavily processed, creating hypnotic effects. The mellotron adds an exciting vintage electronic sound to the mix. You can find influences from Echoes-era Pink Floyd and Ozric Tentacles.
I Wash My Soul In The Stream Of Infinity is a beautifully crafted atmospheric mix of rock, electronica, and psychedelia.
The album is available on CD, LP and digital download.
I’ve always been interested in dark folk and deep space ambient music. Janet Robbins is an impressive discovery in this field. Her new album titled ‘Song of the Gypsy Tree’
introduces a magical and mesmerizing collection of poetry combined with remarkable overdubbed vocals, ambient music, whispering voices, electronic beats, beautiful distant vocals and choruses, global music samples and acoustic instruments such as the piano and frame drums.
“I’m singing on this album – there’s more compositional structure for the lyric, although there are formless passages of lyric as well,” explains Janet. “Sonically I still draw from a source of tone and musicality, that seems to reside in middle earth and deep space. I do feel the quality of journey and travel still exists within the music.”
Janet Robbins introspective lyrics are richly poetic with themes of love, the environment, nature, science fiction, dreams and mystery. She composed, wrote and performed most of the music. Robbins is an accomplished piano player and also uses a wide variety of electronic keyboard sounds. Two percussionists, Chris Armstrong and River Guerguerian participated in the album.
“For me, the album is about relationship of all kinds,” says Janet, “the struggles we create when we ignore our relatedness to one another, the animal kingdom, and to the environment, and the offerings of the natural and spirit world and the surrender that’s needed.”
“I think we have the gift of almost unlimited creation and a responsibility for what/the world we create,” adds Janet. “So cook a great meal and share it with friends! Sing a little tune to someone on the street, turn a moment into a radical departure from social dictates, use your voice and break the numbing acquiescence of a collective sleep. But enjoy life.”
‘Song of the Gypsy Tree‘ conjures a futuristic, mysterious world with an impressive range of layered vocal talent and hypnotic deep space ambient sounds. An extraordinary album by new dark ambience talent Janet Robbins.
Metamorphic Rock captures the live performance of the progressive rock jam band Moraine at the 2010 North East Art Rock Festival (NEARfest) in Bethlehem (Pennsylvania). As the title of the album indicates, Moraine plays an ever changing form of rock music infused with elements of progressive rock, avant-garde jazz and improvisation. The sound of the band is unique thanks to a combination of fiery electric guitar, baritone saxophone solos, soaring electric violin and the intense sounds of the NS/Stick, an 8 string extended-range tapping bass designed by Emmett Chapman.
In addition to the vibrant rock and freeform jazz improvisation elements, Moraine also introduces world music elements such as captivating East Asian and Arabic melodies as well as reggae beats.
The band featured on the album includes Dennis Rea on electric guitar; Alicia DeJoie on electric violin, James DeJoie on saxophone, flute, and effects; Kevin Millard on bass; and Stephen Cavit on drums.
Metamorphic Rock presents the live performance of an outstanding group of creative avant-garde musicians who can easily navigate the waters of high energy progressive rock, jazz fusion and exploratory improvised music.
Fans of Yes and its longtime vocalist Jon Anderson should not miss his latest work titled Open. This marvelous 21-minute epic piece brings back the magic that made Yes one of the most cherished progressive rock bands of all time. Open combines dramatic symphonic sounds alongside peaceful vocal passages with messages of peace and love and the fabulous overdubbed vocals that Jon Anderson pioneered and mastered.
Although Jon Anderson has made many solo albums, his masterpiece was Olias of Sunhillow. Open takes his music back to that level of creativity. At a time when the new Yes album is a disappointment for progressive rock fans, Jon Anderson picks up the torch with this gem, demonstrating that he was one of the brains behind the essential Yes sound.
The impressive orchestral work was composed by Anderson’s neighbor and good friend Stefan Podell. “’Forever taken to that place of understanding,’ are the first lyrics of ‘Open’, as though I am always remembering my true musical journey,” says Jon Anderson. “To create this work, I sat with my 19th Century guitar and strummed ideas last spring 2010. Songs just poured out of me that week, and before I knew it I had created a long form musical idea, and with the help of Stefan Podell’s powerful orchestration, we put together what is now ‘Open.’
It has 4 movements all intertwined, and seems to have a life of its own. For those who love this kind of music, I feel so happy to present it as one of many I hope to create over the coming years. My love ‘Janee’ has helped in production with her unique musical observations and her angel voice.”
At this time, Open is only available as a digital download. Hopefully, Jon Anderson will add more gems to incorporate it into a full album.
Open is one of the indispensable progressive rock releases of 2011, demonstrating that Jon Anderson is still one of the great creative forces in the genre.
Russian space rock band Gdeva returns with Kleti Quatro, an album that brings together progressive rock, psychedelia, and electronics. You can hear traces of Pink Floyd, Kraut Rock and the spacier elements of Porcupine Tree.
Gdeva was formed in 2005 in St. Petersburg as an improvisational trio performing instrumental psychedelic music when guitarist Andrei Petrov joined forces with bassist Valery Berestov and drummer Alexander Kravtsov.The debut collection of improvisations, “Bubbles, Bubbles…”, was recorded that same year with vintage musical instruments, and eventually saw the light of day on the Raig label in 2007. One year later, a fourth member was added to the band, and the music style made an abrupt shift from long-drawn-out to more clearly improvised structures.
The musicians themselves call their style “post-Krautrock”. The result of the new line-up was creation of the album “Kleti Quatro“, which was recorded in autumn 2009, and eventually published by the Musea label in the year 2011.
Currently, the band members are engaged in new projects, and Gdeva has become a one-man-project spearheaded by guitarist and band leader Andrei Petrov.
Kleti Quatro is an outstanding space rock album by the musical shifting Gdeva.
Some of the best international jazz fusion musicians can be found on The New Universe Music Festival 2010 – 2 CD Set. The recordings were made during the spectacular gathering of virtuoso musicians that took place November 20 and 21, 2010 in Raleigh, North Carolina at The New Universe Music Festival, produced by the Abstract Logix label.
The event brought together several generations of fusion musicians. The impressive line-up included John McLaughlin (guitar); Jimmy Herring (guitar); Wayne Krantz (guitar); Alex Machacek (guitar); Tom Guarna (guitar); Matthew Garrison (bass); Anthony Jackson (bass); Etienne Mbappe (bass); Neal Fountain (bass); Richie Goods (bass); Gary Husband (keys); Scott Kinsey (keys); Matt Slocum (keys); Vince Evans (keys); Jeff Sipe (drums); Mark Mondesir (drums); Gary Husband (drums); Lenny White (drums); Ranjit Barot (drums); Cliff Almond (drums); Arto Tuncboyaciyan (percussion, voice); Zakir Hussain (tabla); and Bala Bhaskar (violin).
Highlights of disc 1 include the superb Indian fusion sounds of drummer Ranjit Barot, accompanied by Wayne Krantz, Bala Bhaskar, Scott Kinsey, Arto Tuncboyaciyan and Matthew Garrison.
Percussion wizard and vocalist Arto Tuncboyaciyan returned with two pieces inspired by the sounds of the late Joe Zawinul. Arto Tuncboyaciyan worked with Zawinul for several years and was a key element in Zawinul’s hybrid sound. In addition, keyboardist Scott Kinsey has picked up the Zawinul torch and treated the audience to state of the art electronic keyboard work combined with jazz and global sounds. Tuncboyaciyan and Kinsey were supported by Matthew Garrison on bass and Ranjit Barot on drums.
Standouts from disc 2 are the pieces by legendary fusion pioneer John McLaughlin and his multinational band. For this occasion, McLaughlin was accompanied by Etienne Mbappe on bass, Gary Husband on keyboards, Mark Mondesir on drums and special guest Zakir Hussain on tabla.
The Black Forest is a concept album by Agents of Mercy, which is one of the many musical projects that guitarist Roine Stolt is involved with. The first two pieces on the album, the title track “The Black Forest’ and ‘A quiet Little Town’ will please progressive rock fans with its powerful and lush guitar and keyboard work and outstanding vocals by Nad Sylvan. Keyboardist Lalle Larsson’s work is truly remarkable, using a wide variety of keyboards to produce fascinating solos and atmospheres.
Things go downhill on ‘Black Sunday.’ For some reason, the band decided to heavy metal on this piece. There are surely many ways to musically illustrate a dark atmosphere and drama without having to resort to heavy metal.
“The music this time is a more rock oriented path we’ve taken,” says guitarist and band leader Roine Stolt, “for good reasons – we are a rock ‘n’ roll band at the core, but we sprinkle bits of symphonic, world, jazz, medieval and folk. Guitars and drums have moved forward in the soundscapes, but the gnarly moogs and mellotrons are still present, this time a bit more haunting and angular. The songs are longer and more elaborate, but sometimes with an iron fist of raw power riffage that resembles Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin or early King Crimson rather than Yes or Genesis. Don’t fret – in this 56-minute journey there is plenty of symphonic bombardment too. In fact, we think there is even more than on previous albums!”
‘Elegy’ is an anthemic ballad that returns to the realm of fine progressive rock. This is followed by another hard rocker titled ‘Citadel,’ with a Led Zeppelinesque feel and practically no trace of progressive rock.
One of the best cuts on the album is ‘Between Sun and Moon,’ an ear-catching piece that brings the best of progressive rock with majestic synths and mellotron, soaring guitar and engaging vocals that could easily be destined to be a sing-along classic.
The epic ‘Freak of Life’ combines high energy drama and tranquil moments and has some of the best vocal work in the album, with various types of overdubbed voices and choruses that recall the golden age of Peter Gabriel-era progressive rock. Roine Stolt and Lalle Larsson treat the listener with a series of superb guitar and keyboard solos and melodies.
The final track ‘Kingdom of Heaven’ is a spectacular grand finale with more state of the art progressive rock with layers of mellotron and outstanding guitar solos.
“We laid down the basic tracks on 24-track analog tape in a lovely studio in the middle of Sweden’s countryside in April,” says Roine, “a place called Varnhem (very dark age). The studio is a top notch, super hi tech, newly built million dollar sanctuary – to our ears it sounds bigger than pure digital; modern but yet fat analog.”
Agents of Mercy are Nad Sylvan on lead vocals and keyboards, Roine Stolt on guitars and vocals, Lalle Larsson on keyboards and vocals, and the terrific rhythm section formed by Jonas Reingold on bass and bass pedals, and Walle Wahlgren on drums and percussion.
The Black Forest is an impressive work by some of the finest progressive rock musicians in the northern European scene although the overall result could have been even better without the heavy metal pieces.