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.

Absorbing Cosmology

Kotebel – Cosmology

Kotebel – Cosmology (Musea, 2017)

Kotebel, the masters of symphonic rock are back with an album about the cosmos plus an assortment of other pieces. The Madrid-based band is known for its two talented keyboard players (father and daughter) along with outstanding guitar, bass and drum work. On cosmology there is also notable flute work performed by guest musician Omar Acosta.

Cosmology is an instrumental work, like other Kotebel albums, where classically-influenced progressive rock is combined with avant-garde music and other influences in the form of mini symphonies.

The lineup on the album includes Carlos Franco Vivas on drums, percussion; César García Forero on electric and acoustic guitars; Jaime Pascual Summers on bass; Adriana Plaza Engelke on piano, keyboards; and Carlos Plaza Vegas on keyboards. Special guest: Omar Acosta on flute.

Buy Cosmology

Bill Frisell’s Harmony Project to Perform at Carboro ArtsCenter

Acclaimed jazz guitarist and innovator Bill Frisell is set to perform on Thursday, September 14th in Carrboro, North Carolina with his Harmony Project.

The ensemble put together by Frisell includes vocalist Petra Haden, cellist Hank Roberts, and multi-instrumentalist Luke Bergman. Harmony is described as an evocative trip through the landscape of American music of the last century.

More details at: artscenterlive.org/events.

Ancestor’s Tale

Ut Gret – Ancestor’s Tale (AltrOck Productions, 2014)

Ancestor’s Tale is the fourth album by American progressive music band Ut Gret. The ensemble’s sound is characterized by the combination of prog rock instrumentation and various wind instruments such as the bassoon and clarinet. It’s a mix of avant-garde jazz, free form improvisation, chamber music and Canterbury-style progressive rock.

Ut Gret intertwines structured musical works with unexpected experimental improvisation.

The lineup on Ancestor’s Tale includes Joee Conroy on electric guitar, acoustic 12-string guitar, fretless bass; Steve Roberts on organ, electric piano, mellotron, marimba, vibes, samples; Jackie Royce on bassoon, flute, contra-bassoon; Steve Good on clarinet, bass clarinet; Gary Pahler on drums; Sydney Simpson: double bass; Cheyenne Mize on vocals, violin; and Gregory Acker on flutes, percussion, digeridoo, baritone saxophone.

The CD booklet includes fascinating artwork and descriptions of the musical pieces.

Buy Ancestor’s Tale in the rest of the world

Buy Ancestor’s Tale in Europe

The Atlantic Publishes Loathsome Attack on Prog Rock

Following an ignoble tradition, James Parker, a contributing editor at the Atlantic (a well-known American magazine), has published an article where he trashes progressive rock. This type of of attack is nothing new. For decades, pop music critics in the UK, USA and other countries have taken delight in trashing a musical genre they dislike and clearly don’t understand.

James Parker begins his flawed premise with the title of the article, a fallacy called “The Whitest Music Ever.” Under his uninformed Anglo-Centric perspective, Parker clearly demonstrates that he is unfamiliar with the tremendous diversity of progressive rock: flamenco and tango-rooted, Afro-Cuban, Japanese, Indian, Indonesian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Venezuelan, and so forth.

An example of Afro-Cuban prog rock:

 

 

And here is one of the best current acts from Japan:

 

 

The reason why progressive rock is back in the mainstream media is thanks to a book by David Weigel titled “The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock.” Parker references how Weigel and 3,000 other progressive rock fans embarked on a five-day progressive-rock cruise. In classic despicable fashion, Parker calls it “a floating orgy of some of the most despised music ever produced by long-haired white men.”

 

The Show That Never Ends: The Rise and Fall of Prog Rock

 

Parker asserts that prog rock “ruled the world for about 30 seconds in the early 1970s before being torn to pieces by the starving street dogs of punk rock.” Obviously, he needs a lesson in musical history. Some progressive rock acts like Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Yes and Genesis were extremely popular in the early 1970s and former punk rock musicians went on to make second and third generation progressive rock so his statement is clearly inaccurate.

Parker mentions he likes Queen, which is not a prog rock group. He likes the single from Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells used in The Exorcist (good choice) and mentions that he dislikes Rush. Although Rush had one or two albums that ventured into progressive rock, Rush is essentially a hard rock band. Naturally, Palmer trashes one of Yes’ masterpieces, Tales From Topographic Oceans.

The spurious verborrhea continues, defaming prog rock as “hated, dated, sonically superannuated.” We already know many pop critics hate it; old news. Dated? Has Palmer even heard the third or fourth generation trailblazing progressive rock acts who have added dark folk, trip hop, contemporary jazz, world music and many other innovative elements?

Palmer’s tirade goes on and on… And then we get to what he considers the good stuff, the punk rock he loves so much. The difference between individuals like Palmer and those of us who write about progressive rock is that even if we don’t like a genre such as punk rock, we don’t write about it and enjoy trashing it.

Parker thinks he’s witty with all his insults and nastiness, but he just sounds like someone who really does not appreciate innovative music and the time and effort it takes to be a skilled musician. For a history of progressive rock visit: progressive-rock-history/

 

Falling for Ascension Modules

Markus Reuter featuring Sonar and Tobias Reber – Falling for Ascension (Ronin Rhythm Records, 2017)

Prolific music explorer Markus Reuter continues to daze with his musical projects. On Falling for Ascension Reuter brings together several progressive music traditions: featuring Fripp-inspired improvised guitar techniques, hypnotic ambient sounds, minimalism and creative prog-rock drumming.

The lineup includes Stephan Thelen on guitar; Bernhard Wagner on guitar; Christian Kuntner on bass; Manuel Pasquinelli on drums; Tobias Reber on live electronics; and Markus Reuter on touch guitars U8, soundscapes.

Falling for Ascension presents a remarkable mix of exciting grooves, evolving guitar patterns and mesmeric atmospheres.

Buy Falling for Ascension

Interview with Atte Kemppainen of Dai Kaht

Finnish band Dai Kaht recently released a self-titled album, Dai Kaht, where they combine various progressive rock subgenres, including Zeuhl. Atte Kemppainen discusses the new recording with Progressive Rock Central.

 

Dai Kaht – Dai Kaht

 

How and when was Dai Kaht formed?

I would say it all finally came together in 2013 when our drummer Osmo Saarinen joined our ranks. Myself having no musical training meant it was rather difficult to find the right connections in Kajaani, especially with my outlandish ideas of epic progressive rock.

I had been playing bass for a number of years at this point and, through a couple of jam sessions, found some fitting people to form a sort of prototype band. You could say my music was largely Pink Floyd influenced at this point, but this was about to change radically.

One day a friend linked me a prog medley performed by Tatsuya Yoshida’s “Ruins”. I was kinda familiar with Ruins because of my interest in avant-garde music, but this medley happened to have a clip of “De Futura”.

I looked into this song and there it was Magma!

Getting past the relentless and extremely heavy “De Futura” (which, as an introductory piece, doesn’t capture the essence of Magma very well, in my opinion), I got into the funky rhythms and lightning-fast bass lines of the “Attahk” album. Then came along the revolutionary “Mëkanïk Dëstruktïẁ Kömmandöh”. This is where i felt it got deep.

At first, I found the long pieces challenging and rather cumbersome. I remember picking up my bass and playing along M.D.K just to try and understand the intense energy these ritual-like songs were emitting. Finally, when listening to the “Theusz Hamtaahk Trilogy” in chronological order, I found the essence in “Ẁurdah Ïtah”. It was like a breath of life; there was an incredible positive energy surging through my veins! The Trilogy was complete and i was ready for Magma to reveal its secrets!

Magma pretty much changed my whole perception of musical expression. I had gained something that would stay with me for the rest of my life! In this ecstasy, Dai Kaht was born.

 

Alemaahr Kempah (Atte Kemppainen) – Dai Kaht

 

What does Dai Kaht mean?

Dai Kaht roughly translates as “Great Planet”, a story about the survival of humanity in the age of celestial colonization. The setting of our first album is the space journey towards humanity’s new home planet.

The basic dynamics of the story are woven around the three main characters: “Gnyynlaggör” “Addurrenn” and “Kadett Mozamï”. These characters can be seen as basic archetypes found in almost every story. “Gnyynlaggör”, the chaotic and self centered brute; “Addurrenn”, the lawful righteous saint; and “Kadett Mozamï”, the neutral avatar for the “reader” (listener).

The story takes place on the spaceship “Doover Üouh”, which translates to “Father 5”.

I feel i shouldn’t describe the story in too much detail at this point, because there is a lot to cover, but i can safely say that the main point of the story is the human instinct to survive.

I have considered writing chapters of the Dai Kaht story and publishing them online.

 

 

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

Organic sound, strong melodies, tight rhythm section, non traditional song structures, expressive operatic vocals and shamanistic chanting.

The Dai Kaht story was originally created only for inspirational purposes in order for me to create music out of this world, but in reality, we combine a lot of stuff from different earthbound musical genres.

The overall ideal is honest self expression and total commitment (especially when performing live).

 

Dai Kaht

 

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Genre-wise: Prog Rock, Zeuhl, Jazz fusion, Traditional, Classical… The main aesthetic I strive for is that of 70s prog rock. Somehow, the sounds of that era feel nice and organic, with just the right balance of electric and acoustic.

As far as “Prog Bands” go, you have the classic stuff like: King Crimson, Yes, Emerson Lake & Palmer, Camel, Gentle Giant and Pink Floyd.

On the realm of “Zeuhl”, there are the vastly important acts like: Magma, Zao, Dün, Offering, Weidorje and Koenjihyakkei.

I also draw a lot of inspiration from traditional music such as: Arabic Oud, Indonesian Gamelan, Tuvan throat singing, Shamanic music, Military March music… Basically, all I find interesting or just fascinatingly peculiar.

 

Dai Kaht

 

Just like Magma, you created your own language. How did you come up with a new language and why?

In the very beginning I intended to make instrumental music, but at some point I started chanting and scat singing along. Even without specific lyrics, the addition of the human voice seemed to breathe life into the compositions.

Christian Vander’s “Kobaian language”, of course, served as huge influence. The reason why i didn’t simply sing in “Kobaian” was because I didn’t know how to use it properly. In a way, I felt that by bending these sounds I was tainting something sacred and beautiful.

So the solution for me was to make something of my own, so i started combining words from different languages. The idea was to have the words invoke certain feelings just by hearing them. Whether the feeling was love, hate, lust or just common nausea, the sounds had to express that. This language became known as the “Kolöniel”, the so called common tongue of the age of celestial colonization.

I find it little difficult to talk about the language issue because it makes me feel slightly arrogant. However, I sincerely feel that I created it out of respect and admiration for Magma and Christian Vander.

 

Dai Kaht

 

What’s the current Dai Kaht lineup?

In 2014 our original guitarist Lauri Antikainen moved to another city to pursue musical studies so he was replaced by Ville Sirviö. I had collaborated with Ville in a King Crimson cover band “Project Crimson King” as the singer, so we were definitely speaking the same musical language.

In the beginning, I wanted Dai Kaht to have a couple of more singers, a keyboard player and all sort of stuff, but with Lauri, the so-called “rock band”-format really started working. I think this choice made us a little more distinctive among Zeuhl bands, plus the practical benefits of having a compact group are nice.

Here’s the lineup we are looking at these days:

Atte Kemppainen: vocals, bass

Osmo Saarinen: drums, vocals

Ville Sirviö: lead guitar

Tommi Ruotsalainen: rhythm guitar

 

Willargh Shirow (Ville Sirviö)

 

How are you promoting your music?

Apart from selling our albums on our gigs, we are on Facebook and Youtube.

Our debut album is also available at Spotify, iTunes, Google Play and many more music streaming services. And if we’re lucky, word gets around…

How’s the current progressive rock scene in Finland?

I might not be the best person to ask this because I don’t follow the scene too closely.

There are a couple of bands that basically support the prog rock scene in Finland.

Ultimately, I would like to hear honest and daring music without losing the quality of the compositions.

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

Well i play bass in a cumbia/afro rock cover band called Rahat tai Henki and I would love to sing with Project Crimson King again someday.

Do you have any upcoming projects to share with us?

Yes, hopefully we can soon start working on the second Dai Kaht album!

Epic Grimspound

Big Big Train – Grimspound (English Electric Recordings, 2017)

Big Big Train is a third generation British progressive rock band (which also features American and Swedish members) that has matured to such a degree that it has become of the finest British progressive rock bands of all time. Grimspound came out in April 2017 and is one of the two albums released this year by Big Big Train. The other album is The Second Brightest Star (2017) released in June.

Grimspound was originally envisioned as an EP companion to 2016’s Folklore. However, as the band readied to release the EP, it grew into a fabulous full length album with state of the art progressive rock.

Big Big Train’s style draws from 1970s and 1980s classic progressive rock bands, but they also honor progressive rock pioneers by adding traditional folk, classical, jazz and even electronic elements. This makes Big Big Train a true delight to listen to.

On Grimspound you’ll find stellar musicianship, masterfully constructed musical pieces and lead vocals and exquisite vocal harmonies that immediately hook you. The listener is treated to memorable keyboard, guitar, flute and fiddle work, where moments of calm lead seamlessly to epic progressions.

Getting things right in terms of composition and arrangements in the complicated world of progressive rock is not easy, but Big Big Train are at a stage where the music flows perfectly.

Grimspound contains abundant folk music influences and references. The gorgeous voice of folk singer Judy Dyble (a folk singer with a prog rock soul) appears on “The Ivy Gate.”

The physical version contains beautiful artwork, lyrics and song descriptions.

The lineup on the album includes Nick D’Virgilio on drums, percussion and backing vocals; Danny Manners on keyboards and double bass; Rikard Sjöblom on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals; Rachel Hall on violin, viola, cello and backing vocals; Greg Spawton on bass guitar and bass pedals; David Longdon on lead and backing vocals, flute, piano, acoustic and electric guitars, mandolin, banjo, lute, melodica, celesta, synthesizers, percussion; Dave Gregory on electric 6 and 12 string guitars; Andy Poole on acoustic guitar, keyboards and backing vocals. Guests:
Judy Dyble on vocals; and Philip Trzebiatowski on cello.

Check out the videos for this album and get this band’s great albums. It’s one of the finest prog rock bands in the current scene.

 

 

 

 

Buy Grimspound in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy Grimspound in Europe

Stellar Lost World Band

Lost World Band – Of Things and Beings (Samum Publishing, 2016)

Of Things and Beings by Lost World Band is undoubtedly a progressive rock masterpiece. The talented artists behind this project are four excellent Russian musicians. Stylistically, plays masterfully-crafted symphonic progressive rock filled with stellar instrumental performances and magnificent orchestrations.

Lost World Band have developed their own style. It is founded in the interplay between multi-instrumentalist Andy Didorenko and flute player Vassili Soloviev. The rhythm section is equally superb, with creative drumming and bass lines. To get an idea of the band’s sound, picture a mix of Stravinsky, Anglagard, Canterbury jazz-rock and Mike Oldfield.

The lineup includes Andy Didorenko on all guitars, violins, keyboards and vocal; Vassili Soloviev on flute; Konstantin Shtirlitz on drums; and Alexander Akimov on percussion

 

 

Of Things and Beings is an impressive progressive rock release by Lost World Band, one of the finest bands in the current scene.

Buy Of Things and Beings

Rising Gentle Knife

Gentle Knife II – Clock Unwound (Bajkal Records, 2017)

Gentle Knife is a pretty large Norwegian ensemble described as a progressive rock collective. The album opens with an exquisite piano and trumpet instrumental piece titled “Prelude: Incipit.” It leads into a lengthy suite titled The Clock Unwound where the band goes into full electric mode. The piece begins as hard rock and gets much better when the spectacular synth solo is added. The Clock Unwound also includes a notable guitar solo and fine flute work. Gentle Knife really stands out when they drop the regressive hard rock and metal riffs.

Track 3, Fade Away takes the band into an excellent progressive rock direction, featuring great keyboard, horn and flute work.

On track 4, Smother, the band gets initially more pop oriented although they later head in a more interesting jazz direction.

Plans Askew begins with delicate acoustic guitars that lead into vocals and flutes. Additional instruments are added as the track builds very nicely.

The last track, “Resignation” is one of the highlights of the album with a brooding introduction featuring keyboards, percussion, flute and mesmerizing spoken word sections. It builds into a great epic and has an Änglagård flavor.

The lineup includes Astraea Antal on flutes, bagpipe chanter and alto saxophone; Pål Bjørseth on keyboards, flugelhorn, trumpet, viola, alto recorder and backing vocals; Odd Grønvold on bass; Thomas Hylland Eriksen on tenor saxophone; Veronika Hørven Jensen on vocals; Håkon Kavli on vocals, guitars; Eivind Lorentzen on guitars and synthesizers; Charlotte Valstad Nielsen on alto and baritone saxophone; Ove Christian Owe on guitars; Ole Martin Svendsen on drums, percussion; and Brian M. Talgo on mellotron, samples, and vocals.

 

 

Clock Unwound is an ambitious recording by a rising talent in the Norwegian progressive rock scene.

Buy Clock Unwound

Experiments of the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere

Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere – Theta Three

Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere – Theta Three (Discus Music, 2017)

Theta Three is the third album by the Orchestra of the Upper Atmosphere. It’s a captivating group of musicians that combine trance-like electronic music, progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion and avant-garde classical music through improvisation.

The new album is a two-disc set, Alpha (α) and Omega (Ω). The pieces flow seamlessly, crossing progressive music boundaries with total ease.

The lineup on Theta Three includes Martin Archer on keyboards, electronics, saxophones, clarinets, flute, bass recorder, and bass harmonica; Chris Bywater on keyboards, electronics, laptop, percussion, voice, and random processed electric violin; Steve Dinsdale on electronic drum kit, floor percussion, and keyboards; frostlake on voice, electronics, and viola; Yvonna Magda on violin and electronics; Walt Shaw on percussion, electronics and voice; and Terry Todd on bass.

Guests: George Murray on trombone; Paul Schatzberger on violin; Aby Vulliamy on viola; and Angela Rosenfeld on cello.

Buy Theta Three