Category Archives: CD Reviews

The Sound Of The Earth Showcases Improvisatory Progressive Music Luminaries

Xavi Reija featuring Tony Levin, Markus Reuter, Dusan Jevtovic – The Sound Of The Earth (Moonjune Records, 2018)

The Sound Of The Earth is an album by a sort of western progressive music all-stars associated with the Moonjune label. Xavi Reija demonstrates his formidable skill as a drummer, along with some of the biggest names in the improvisatory progressive rock scene: Tony Levin, Markus Reuter and Dusan Jevtovic.

The album features high energy pieces with creative drumming, distorted guitars and outstanding bass work. The four musicians also delve into tranquil territory, with the guitarists developing exquisite ambient soundscapes supported by lightly touched drumming and imaginative basslines.

The lineup includes Xavi Reija on drums; Tony Levin on electric bass, upright bass, and stick: Markus Reuter on touch guitar; and Dusan Jevtovic on guitar.

Buy the digital edition of The Sound Of The Earth or the CD.

Prog Rock and Soundtrack Textures

Armonite – And The Stars Above (Purple Pyramid/Cleopatra Records, 2018)

And The Stars Above is the latest from Italian duo Armonite. It is a masterful collection of instrumental pieces (with brief vocals) where progressive rock and classical music meets jazz, electronica and other influences.

Armonite’s sound is characterized by the scorching electric violin and viola of Jacopo Bigi and the magnificent keyboards and electronics of Paolo Fosso.

The concept behind album is soundtracks. It’s envisioned as a set of pieces inspired by literature, dance and various other forms. And The Stars Above includes a charming piece titled Plaza De España that has a Spanish flavor, including castanets.

Guersts include Colin Edwin on bass; Alberto Fiorani on bass; Giacomo Lampugnani on double bass; Jasper Barendregt on drums; Emiliano Cava on drums; Corrado Bertonazzi on drums; Maria Chiara Montagnari on vocals; Diletta Fosso on child’s voice; Marcello Rosa on cello; Quartetto indaco string quartet.

Buy And The Stars Above

Deep into the Dreamtime Zone

Steve Roach – Return To the Dreamtime (Timeroom Editions, 2018)

Thirty years after the seminal electronic music album Dreamtime Return (Fortuna Records, 1998), trailblazing synthesist Steve Roach has released a double album titled Return To the Dreamtime.

This recreation of the original music is an expanded version created and recorded live at the Galactic Center in Tucson, Arizona, on February 10, 2018.

The project came out after Roach remastered Dreamtime Return for the 30th anniversary. Roach wanted to magnify and present this music live for the first time since the early 1990s. In order to do this, Steve Roach had to locate the archived sounds, samples, and location recordings he made in 1987 and 1988. Thankfully, the files were still cataloged and warehoused in his studio.

Disc 1 begins with a mammoth Berlin-style, sequencer-based piece called “Towards the Dream.” After that, Steve Roach goes deep into the spellbinding dreamzone, incorporating marvelous soundscapes and tribal sounds featuring distant drums and aboriginal musical instruments like the didgeridoo.

Return To the Dreamtime is a masterful performance by the prolific Steve Roach, one of the great electronic music artists of our time.

Buy Return To The Dreamtime from steveroach.bandcamp.com

Veiled Details

Soft Machine – Hidden Details (MoonJune Records, 2018)

Soft Machine, the legendary British band from Canterbury, has a new album titled Hidden Details. Soft Machine was the jazzier side of the famed Canterbury progressive rock movement of the early 1970s.

The current lineup includes John Etheridge on electric and acoustic guitar; Theo Travis on saxophone, flute, and Fender Rhodes piano; Roy Babbington on bass; and John Marshall on drums.

The music on the album includes progressive jazz-rock, improvisatory pieces and some sound experimentation. The structured musical works are more satisfactory and engaging. Theo Travis really stands out when he picks up the flute or the electric piano, developing mesmerizing crystalline sounds.

Album highlights include “The Man Who Waved at Trains,” a spellbinding composition featuring Fender Rhodes and great flute/guitar dialog; the excellent bluesy guitar on “Broken Hill”; the dreamy keyboards on “Out Bloody Intro”; the delicate guitar on “Drifting White”; the splendid ensemble work on “Fourteen Hour Dream”; and the magical flute and percussion on “Breathe.”

Symphonic and Smooth

Alan Simon – Big Bang

Alan Simon – Big Bang (Cherry Red, 2018)

French composer Alan Simon has been combining cinematic orchestral music, rock, pop and Celtic music in the past years. He is the composer of the celebrated Excalibur: The Celtic Rock Opera. Big Bang is Simon’s vision of the creation of the universe.

The album features Celtic music legend Alan Stivell, John Helliwell of rock band Supertramp and Michael Sadler of AOR band Saga.

Big Bang features masterfully-constructed modern symphonic pieces along with electronics and a prevalent smooth jazz saxophone throughout the album.

Versatile Bailenas

Roland Bühlmann – Bailenas (Roland Bühlmann, 2017)

Bailenas is an excellent instrumental album by Swiss multi-instrumentalist Roland Bühlmann. He delivers an engaing combination of progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, electronics and post rock.

The sounds revolves around various electric guitar sounds although Roland Bühlmann also plays hanottere (a Swiss cittern), bass, stones, and shofar (Hebrew horn) along with loops, drums and percussion generated with Beta Monkey Music samples.

Bailenas is a beautifully-crafted album highlight the versatility of the electric guitar.

Buy the digital edition of Bailenas or the CD from rolandbuehlmann.bandcamp.com

The Finely-Crafted Songs of Il Bacio della Medusa

Il Bacio della Medusa – Seme (AMS Records, 2018)

Italian band Il Bacio della Medusa (Medusa’s Kiss) is highly regarded within progressive rock circles. Seme is the band’s first album in six years and it is a mix of various genres with diverse results.

The highlights of the album are the progressive rock tracks: the delightful “La Sonda” where Il Bacio della Medusa combines passionate vocals, beautiful flute, acoustic guitars and a great synth solo; the fabulous Banco-inspired “5 E 1/4 ….Fuori Dalla Finestra Il Tempo E’ Dispari” where symphonic and jazz-rock come together with more stellar keyboard work; the mesmerizing instrumental “Uthopia…Il Non Luogo” where prog rock and electronica find common ground; the climactic “Il Sentiero Di Luce” that showcases fine vocal, guitar and flute work; and the final instrumental “Animaemotica.”

The rest of the album contains a hard rock song, a couple of singer-songwriter folk rock pieces and one country inspired song.

The musicians on the album include Simone Cecchini on lead and backing vocals, acoustic 6 and 12-string guitars; Simone Brozzetti on guitar; Simone Matteucci on electric and acoustic guitars, backing vocals; Eva Morelli on flute, alto and soprano saxophones; Federico Caprai on bass and backing vocals; and Diego Petrini on drums, percussion, piano, synthesizer, mellotron, backing vocals.

Earlier recordings include: Il Bacio Della Medusa, Discesa Agl’Inferi D’Un Giovane Amante, Deus Lo Vult, and Live.

Conspiracy of Fools

Apogee ‎- Conspiracy of Fools (Progressive Promotion Records ‎PPRCD 064, 2018)

Conspiracy of Fools is the new album by Apogee, the ambitious project of multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and producer Arne Schäfer (Versus X). He plays practically all instruments except for drums. His music is solidly in the symphonic progressive rock camp, with influences from the great bands of the 1970s and 1980s.

Five of the six track clock over 10 minutes and feature notable guitar and keyboard solos, the always mellotron orchestrations, odd meters and a mix of instrumental and vocal passages. Arne Schäfer has added extra layers of vocals in the form of harmonies. There is also spoken word which works really well.

Lineup: Arne Schäfer on lead vocals, backing vocals, electric, acoustic guitar and slide guitar, keyboards, and bass; and Ebi Graef on drums.

Get Conspiracy of Fools from amazon uk

The Extraordinary Music of Béla Bartók and King Crimson Live

Dialeto – Live with David Cross (Chromatic Music, 2018)

Brazilian instrumental rock band Dialeto delivers a magnificent live version of its recreations of Béla Bartók’s Romanian and Bulgarian folk Dances. As the album title indicates, King Crimson violinist David Cross joined the band in Sao Paulo to perform Dialeto’s material as well as King Crimson classics (including a gorgeous version of “Starless”) and a piece by Cross.

The music is a captivating mix of power rock, classical, jazz and folk influences, heavy rock and progressive rock. There is superb musicianship and dazzling interaction between Cross and guitarist Nelson Coelho.

The album was recorded in 2017 at SESC Belenzinho in São Paulo, Brazil. The band featured David Cross on violin; Nelson Coelho on guitars; Fred Barley on drums, vocals; and Gabriel Costa on bass, vocals.

Although this an independent release, the band is getting distribution and marketing support from MoonJune Records.

Buy the Live with David Cross digital album from amazon or the CD from bandcamp.