Sonja Kristina: Anthology (The Right Honourable Recording Company, 2017)
Singer-songwriter Sonja Kristina was one of the female pioneers of progressive rock as the lead vocalist with British band Curved Air. This anthology contains two discs with a selection of music from her solo albums as well as new material.
These are short songs spanning various styles like folk-rock, pop, psychedelic rock and even world music influences.
The CD booklet contains liner notes and many exclusive photos of Sonja Kristina.
Clouds Can – Leave (Progressive Promotion Records, 2017)
Leave is the new album by German act Clouds Can, a project featuring multi-instrumentalists T (Thomas Thielen) and Dominik Hüttermann. They describe their music as progressive pop, which is a pretty accurate description. It’s a set of beautifully-arranged, deeply melancholic songs.
Aside from the introspective pop sensibility, there are elements of post rock and some scarce progressive rock moments. Highlights include the epic instrumental conclusion of “Life is Strange” and the ambience and effects that open “Like Any Angel.”
Premiata Forneria Marconi (PFM) was one of the finest European progressive rock bands in the early 1970s. They are now signed to InsideOut Music and this is the band’s first release on their new label.
Like other iconic progressive rock bands of the 1970s, PFM had two stages, a progressive rock era and a commercial pop/rock phase. Emotional Tattoos takes you to the melodic rock and pop style, with catchy songs and ballads. There is only one progressive rock piece, a great instrumental titled “Freedom Square.”
This album is available in a special 2-CD set with English and Italian vocal versions of the album.
Prospect of the Deep Volume is the new album by experimental guitarist Andy Hawkins. The album features a wall of distorted guitar sound over which Hawkins develops long tone guitar improvisations. On this new Azonic project he’s joined by percussionist Tim Wyskida on timpani, concert bass drum, and gong who contributes mesmerizing beats.
The vinyl version of the album includes two pieces: “Oblivion of the Deep” and “The Argonaut’s Reckoning.” The CD edition contains a bonus track, “Voices of the Drowned.”
Prospect of the Deep Volume One opens new gates into the sound of the electric guitar.
Geoffrey Downes and Chris Braide – Skyscraper Souls (The Right Honourable Recording Company, 2017)
Skyscraper Souls is the third album by British artists Geoffrey Downes (Buggles, Asia, Yes) and Chris Braide. Despite the fantasy artwork by Roger Dean, this is an album of ballads and tap along pop with no connection whatsoever to progressive rock.
The album features guest appearances from Marc Almond, Andy Partridge, Kate Pierson, Matthew Koma, David Longdon and Tim Bowness.
Finnish musician and composer Juha Kujanpää recently released an album titled Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa (To Where My Wings Will Take Me), where he continues his brilliant combinations of progressive rock with jazz, classical and folk music.
Juha Kujanpää talks about his music with Progressive Rock Central’s Angel Romero.
On your latest album, Niin Kauas Kuin Siivet Kantaa, you collaborate with members of Frigg and other Finnish folk musicians. How did you come in contact with these artists?
Juha Kujanpää: The Finnish folk music scene is relatively small, everybody knows each other. The violinists in my ensemble, Esko Järvelä, Alina Järvelä and Tommi Asplund are playing with Frigg, but also with many other ensembles.
I’m playing piano in trio Karuna with Esko Järvelä and accordionist Teija Niku (who also plays on all of my three albums). With Karuna, we released our second album “Whirlwind” last year, and it also contains several compositions of mine.
I’ve been also touring as a guest musician with Esko and Tommi with another great Finnish ethno band, Tsuumi Sound System.
Tell us about the recording process in terms of location, rehearsing, and other details.
Many of the musicians were rather busy with other bands and projects – sometimes it was little bit tricky to get to whole ensemble to rehearse together at the same time. But we did some practicing with the rock band, and then with the violin section alone.
The recording sessions took place in two separate studios in Helsinki, plus I did some overdubbing myself at my own studio space. Most of the tunes were recorded in two parts, drums-bass-guitar-keys first, violins afterwards.
How did this experience affect you?
The sound engineer and the musicians were the same as in two previous albums of mine, so I pretty much knew what to expect, everything went rather smoothly.
There are some tricky things to consider when combining rock and Nordic folk music – the way of groove, in these genres is a little bit different, and it takes some adjusting to get everybody to think about the rhythm in the same way. But I’m very lucky to work with top-level musicians, which are able to adjust their playing easily as needed.
Will you be doing more collaborations with folk musicians from Finland and other musical traditions?
Personally, I’m not actually thinking of doing collaborations. I believe that the folk music influences on the new album are simply part of my musical language. When I’m composing, I don’t necessary have any specific musical genre in my mind. Then again, I’m sure I’ll be working with folk musicians, jazz musicians and classical musicians in the coming years.
Nowadays, the borders of these genres are more often blurred, and I believe that’s also where new and original music is often born. The younger generation of folk musicians is more familiar with playing music between different genres such as jazz and classical.
What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?
Melody. A friend of mine had a theory that the reason I became interested in folk music is the importance of melody. If you think of Nordic folk music, the melody is pretty much everything: you have to be able to play a tune with a single violin.
Who can you cite as your main musical influences?
I began listening to music relatively late, when I was about 13-14 years old. The first albums that opened my ears were progressive rock: Keith Emerson, Mike Oldfield, Pekka Pohjola, Gentle Giant. I also used to listen to jazz a lot, Keith Jarrett has always been one of the greatest for me. There are many innovative jazz musicians I appreciate: Thelonious Monk, Ornette Coleman, Bill Frisell, Ahmad Jamal, Charlie Haden, Carla Bley, Chick Corea.
I “found” Nordic folk music later, first groups like JPP, Väsen, Forsmark Tre, musicians like Timo Alakotila and Maria Kalaniemi. Later I’ve been happy to get to know some of these musicians, also work with some of them. Nowadays I’ve been intrigued by some minimalist or classical composers, like Arvo Pärt, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly. But back to the question: it seems impossible to pick one or two!
Tell us about your first recordings and your musical evolution.
As a teenager I used to compose music on computer, Commodore Amiga. Tracker-style sequencer, 8-bit samples. Only much later I’ve realized how important the experience was for me, in many ways: I learned about making tunes, got some feedback from friends who listened to my music, made friends who were also making music on the same platform.
At the same time I was taking piano lessons and also played in some bands. Rock, pop and jazz music. At some point I was practicing jazz piano quite a lot and I thought my goal was to become a jazz musician. Later things changed, I started to work more with folk musicians, got more interested in that direction. Nowadays it’s hard for me to decide how to categorize myself as a musician, I’m somewhere in-between the genres.
What keyboards and other instruments do you use?
My main instrument is the piano, and I usually prefer acoustic instruments over digital or sampled pianos. But there are situations where it’s more practical to use electric keyboards.
For live playing I’ve been very happy with Nord keyboards by Clavia for the last years. I’m using Nord Stage and Nord Electro. I do have a pile of old analog keyboards, but I use them mainly in studio.
Playing some old quirky instruments can be also a source of inspiration and some unexpected musical ideas! I also play reed organ, an acoustic instrument used in Finnish folk music.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with, whom would that be?
I’d love to collaborate with any new musicians to get and share some fresh ideas. That’s one of the things in music I love – to be in the process of creating something new – something you are not sure which direction it’s going to take.
Here’s a wise quote from a John Zorn interview I recently read: “You can ask someone to do something that maybe they can’t do. Or, they’ll do it differently than how you would have done it, but you’ve got to learn to accept their spin. That’s the secret of a Duke Ellington concept, where you give something to someone and they transform it through their personal filter. And when you find someone whose filter interacts with yours in a very creative, helpful way, then you’ve got a member of the group.”
What music are you currently listening to?
Currently, it might be Arvo Pärt, Einojuhani Rautavaara, Nico Muhly. But ask me next week, and it might be something very different. Basically, I’m always trying to listen to some new music to open my ears, something I haven’t heard before.
What new projects are you working on?
I’m in the middle of composing new material, but it’s too early to say anything about it yet – I’m often a little bit reluctant to tell about things that haven’t been finished. I’m also composing tunes for a children music album I’ll be also playing on. This autumn I’ve been performing quite a lot live with different groups, bands and an improvisation theater ensemble.
Epic Circus is the second album by French guitar hero Renaud Louis-Servais. On Epic Circus you’ll find a mix of fiery instrumental rock-fueled electric guitar mastery together with superb jazz-rock fusion segments.
The influences range from Joe Satriani to Daryl Stuermer and Alan Holdsworth. Although the focus is on the electric guitar and its multi-faceted sounds, the Renaud Louis-Servais Group also features first rate musicians and you’ll find memorable interactions between the guitar and the keyboards played by Philippe Saise and Christophe Cravero supported by creative bass and drums.
Renaud Louis-Servais is epic and also highly melodic. Highlights include the opening track “Carry’n”; the funk-jazz piece “Zaku Patatu”; the prog-rock leaning title track Epic Circus; and the seductive groove of “When you’ve Got Nothing” which features a series of fabulous guitar solos and also Henri Dorina’s notable bass lines.
Lineup: Renaud Louis-Servais on electric and acoustic guitars; Virgil Donati on drums; Henri Dorina on bass; Philippe Saise on Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3, Prophet, piano, mini-Moog, clavinet, Wurlitzer, vocoder and synth layers; Christophe Cravero on Fender Rhodes, Mini-Moog, Hammond B3 and synth layers; and Aurl Ouzoulias on drums.
British progressive symphonic rock band The Enid has a new album titled Live At The Citadel, recorded in St. Helens, October 2017.
The live performance includes classic and recent the Enid musical pieces, including Mayday Galliard, Ondine, When the World is Full, Death, The Lovers, Cortege, Humoresque, Spring, Fand, and Chaldean Crossing.
The lineup includes Robert John Godfrey on keyboards, Zachary Bullock on keyboards and Jason Ducker on guitars.
Suspiria was originally released in 1977. The new set is available in two versions, a standard edition and a limited 150 copy hand-numbered edition.
Both versions contain a faithful reproduction of the original soundtrack in LP format and MC; a 10-inch LP with rare and unreleased tracks on clear red vinyl; a CD + DVD set. The CD includes the original soundtrack with bonus tracks, while the DVD carries a documentary with interviews with Dario Argento and Goblin.
The set also features two 64-page books, in Italian and English language, with detailed analysis of the “Suspiria” movie and soundtrack, written by Fabio Capuzzo.
The limited ‘peacock version’ contains a foam interior exclusive design with a carved “Suspiria” logo; a certificate of authenticity; and an exclusive handcrafted ‘peacock feather stiletto,’ reproducing an object handled by the protagonist Suzy in the final scenes of the movie.
New progressive rock supergroup is scheduled to perform at Night of the Prog on July 14, 2018. The Sea Within includes acclaimed guitarist Roine Stolt (Transatlantic, The Flower Kings), Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain of Salvation), Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings, The Tangent), Tom Brislin (Renaissance, Yes Symphonic, Deborah Harry) and Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, UK, Joe Satriani).
The Sea Within is currently recording its debut album.
Night of the Prog Festival will take place from July 13-15, 2018 on the festival grounds of the Loreley Amphitheater in St. Goarshausen, Germany.