Category Archives: CD Reviews

The Extraordinary Indonesian Progressive Jazz of Dwiki Dharmawan

Dwiki Dharmawan – Rumah Batu (Moonjune, 2018)

A group of superb musicians from the jazz fusion and world music scenes got together in La Casa Murada studio in northeastern Spain in 2017. What they recorded is Rumah Batu, an extraordinary genre defying album that combines progressive jazz, Indonesian music, flamenco and other influences.

Indonesian pianist, composer and producer Dwiki Dharmawan is an acclaimed maestro, known for his eclectic music work and openness. In La Casa Murada, he was joined by a stellar group of musical colleagues: Vietnamese-French electric guitar wizard and note-bending innovator Nguyên Lê; famed Spanish flamenco fretless bass player Carles Benavent (Paco de Lucia’s bass player); and the formidable rhythm section of UK-based bassist Yaron Stavi and drummer Asaf Sirkis.

Although most of the album was recorded in Spain, additional musicians were recorded in Indonesia, adding a strong Southeast Asian essence to the album: Indonesian suling flute virtuoso Sa’at Syah; Ade Rudiana on kendang percussion; Dewi Gita on lead vocals; Teuku Hariansya & Indra Maulana Keubitbit on Rapa’I Acehnese percussions; Nyoman Windha’s Gamelan Jass Jegog Balinese gamelan and percussion; and Smit on vocals and LaLove traditional Sulawesi flute.

Although the majority of the album is instrumental, track three features the mesmerizing and evocative vocals of Dewi Gita.

 

 

Rumah Batu is an exceptionally expressive and imaginative album featuring an impeccable kaleidoscope of jazz and Indonesian sounds.

Buy Rumah Batu

Brainticket’s Live Spontaneous Electronic Music

Brainticket – Zürich / Lausanne

Brainticket – Zürich / Lausanne (Purple Pyramid, 2018)

Brainticket was one of the great Swiss progressive music acts of the 1970s. The double album Zürich / Lausanne features a set of live experimental performances where electronic music meets jazz improvisation and avant-garde sound experimentation.

This set of recordings were made in the 1980s and feature Joel Vandroogenbroeck on synths and electronics; Bruno Spoerri on lyricon and electronics; and Markus Fürst on percussion.

This was the year when the MIDi was introduced and the concert was part performance, part exhibition of the capacity of new technology. The final result is a fine example of live improvised electronic music from the mid-1980s.

Buy Zürich / Lausanne

Soyuz Inspiration

Gazpacho – Soyuz

Gazpacho – Soyuz (KScope, 2018)

Norwegian band Gazpacho is described as a progressive rock band, although their style is closer to minimalist post rock, with a strong melancholic and gloomy feel.

Soyuz’s better moments are the electronic beats, ambient soundscapes and trance-like guitars.

The lineup includes Jan Henrik Ohme on vocals; Jon-Arne Vilbo on guitars; Thomas Andersen on keyboards; Mikael Krømer on violin and mandolin; Kristian Torp on bass; and Lars Erik Asp on drums.

Buy Soyuz

Yuka & Chronoship on a Wondrous Sea Voyage

Yuka & Chronoship – Ship (King Records/Cherry Red Records, 2018)

Ship is the fourth album by Yuka & Chronoship, one of the finest bands in the current Japanese progressive rock scene. The album revolves around the ship theme and opens with a 7-track composition titled The Argo Suite, inspired by Greek mythology.

The album starts with “Argo – Tears of Figurehead,” a charming short song featuring Yuka Funakoshi on piano and harmony vocals and the lead vocals of Sonja Kristina, the iconic singer of pioneering progressive rock band Curved Air along with sound effects of a wooden ship sailing.

Track 2, “Argo – Ship Argos” is a high energy instrumental with powerful synths and a lot of hard rock guitar, probably too much. Yuka adds moments of calm before the hard rocking returns.

“Argo – Landing” continues with the overpowering guitar in a duel with Yuka’s electric organ. Thankfully, Takashi Miyazawa drops the hard and heavy riffs and provides a skilled solo, showcasing his talent.

Track 4 “Argo – Golden Fleece” begins with a retro feel, featuring progressive blues rock with ELP-inspired electric organ. It builds very nicely into an epic symphonic rock conclusion with outstanding keyboard and guitar interaction.

“Argo – A Dragon that Never Sleeps” begins with a potent bass and keyboard introduction, where the band crisscrosses between progressive rock and jazz-rock fusion. This is another satisfying epic that grows in intensity.

“Track 6 Argo – Islands in the Stream” features some of Yuka’s finest keyboard work and Takashi Miyazawa’s guitar is truly impressive. It’s followed by, “Argo – Return,” the magnificent conclusion to the suite with more epic keyboards, guitars, bass and drums.

On “Air Ship of Jean Giraud,” we hear the familiar rich keyboard layers and vocal harmonies of Yuka along with masterful guitar playing by Takashi Miyazawa.

Track 9, “Visible Light” features lead vocals by Yuka, accompanied by rich symphonic keyboards and looped guitars that transition into a fabulous interchange between the synths and guitar.

“Old Ship on the Grass” is a happy sing along song that features acoustic folk guitar, electric organ, wordless vocals and a very catchy beat.

The final track is the symphonic rock treat “Did You Find a Star?” It was originally going to feature vocals by John Wetton, but unfortunately he passed away. The band invited Hiroyuki Izuta to provide the vocals. Yuka performs mesmerizing piano and keyboard work and Takashi Miyazawa adds more of his exceptional guitar lines.

The line-up on Ship includes Yuka Funakoshi on vocals, keyboards and piano; Takashi Miyazawa on guitars; Shun Taguchi on bass and chorus; and Ikko Tanaka on drums. Guests: Sonja Kristina and Hiroyuki Izuda on vocals.

Buy Ship

The Diverse Influences of The Sea Within

The Sea Within – “The Sea Within” (InsideOut Music, 2018)

The word supergroup gets thrown around a lot, although in the case of new and The Sea Within it’s real. The Sea Within brings together a multinational cast of musicians who have performed with high profile progressive rock acts: guitarist and vocalist Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings, Transatlantic); bassist Jonas Reingold (The Flower Kings; keyboardist and vocalist Tom Brislin (Renaissance); drummer and vocalist Marco Minnemann (Steven Wilson, The Aristocrats); and vocalist and guitarist Daniel Gildenlöw (Pain Of Salvation).

The five musicians have put together an excellent recording featuring charismatic and nuanced vocals and top of the line instrumental musicianship. Although the album contains plenty of state of the art progressive rock, featuring memorable guitar and keyboard solos, outstanding vocals and a formidable rhythm section, there is also classic and hard rock and even pop. The dreaded word metal has been thrown around in some of the press releases but, thankfully, it’s barely perceptible.

The album features well-structured songs and some jams, where the band members and their guests get to showcase their talent.

The lineup includes Marco Minneman on drums, percussion, vocal, and guitar; Jonas Reingold on bass; Tom Brislin on keyboards, vocals; Roine Stolt on guitars, vocals, and additional keyboards; Daniel Gildenlow on vocals & additional guitar; and Casey McPherson on vocals.

Guests include Jon Anderson on vocals on Broken Cord; Jordan Rudess on Grand Piano on The Hiding of Truth; and Rob Townsend on soprano saxophone on The Ashes of Dawn.

The album was recorded in London to facilitate travel for all musicians. Jonas lives in Austria, Daniel and Roine are in Sweden, Tom is based in the East Coast of the United States of America, whereas Marco is on the West Coast of the U.S.

The Sea Within will make its stage debut at ‘Night of the Prog’ in Loreley, Germany, July 13-15, 2018 and will feature special guests.

The album is available in CD (with a bonus CD), vinyl and digital formats.

The Sea Within presents impeccable examples of progressive rock craftsmanship.

Buy The Sea Within

Ben Craven Presents The Singles

Ben Craven – The Single Edits (Desert Comb Music, 2018)

This CD of remixed singles by excellent Australian multi-instrumentalist and composer Ben Craven was originally released in digital format last year. The CD edition is beautifully designed and includes lyrics.

The material from Craven’s The Single Edits comes from two superb progressive rock albums Last Chance to Hear (2016) and Great & Terrible Potions (2011). The songs and instrumentals have been cut down to radio single length, 2-5 minutes long. It’s a great way to become acquainted with Craven’s music and ideal for radio airplay as well. The album includes a couple of straight pop ballads that were not featured in the previous albums.

Buy The Single Edits

Martin Turner Live At the Citadel

Martin Turner ex Wishbone Ash – The Beauty of Chaos: Live At the Citadel (Dirty Dog Discs, 2018)

A triple boxed set by bassist, singer and composer Martin Turner, one of the founders of the great British band Wishbone Ash.

The set includes two audio CDs with the ”Written in the Stars” album performed live in its entirety together with a selection of the best of Wishbone Ash. The DVD contains the videotaped performance plus interviews with Turner and members of the band.

The Beauty of Chaos features an excellent band. Wishbone Ash was known for its excellent dual electric guitar and bass interplay and this band doesn’t disappoint. Martin Turner’s vocals are not what they used to. Nevertheless, he delivers compelling performances of Wishbone Ash’s most memorable songs.

Throughout the album, there is superb guitar and bass work, along with the equally good drumming.

Buy The Beauty of Chaos: Live At the Citadel

Season of the Crow

Season of the Crow – Let It Fly

Season of the Crow – Let It Fly (Season of the Crow, 2018)

Season of the Crow is a rock band from the San Francisco Bay Area. Although they are described as a progressive rock and prog metal band, their music is definitely in the heavy metal camp.

Oddly enough, the first songs on the album are closer to hard rock than heavy metal. One of the highlights of the album is track 3, “Mine to Bleed,” another hard rocker where the band showcases the captivating vocals of Riki Carignan with great guitar, keyboard and vocal interplay.

 

 

Some of the best material is on track 4. It begins as heavy metal, but thankfully develops by the middle of the track into finely-crafted progressive rock with an acoustic guitar transition and notable keyboard work by Juha Merimaa, who provides the most satisfying progressive rock moments in the album. The heavy metal returns at the end so the pleasure doesn’t last very long.

Garden is a rock ballad with an excellent acoustic piano and guitar conclusion.

The rest of the album is dominated by heavy metal with excellent keyboard solos here and there.

The lineup includes Riki Carignan on vocals; Kapil Krishnamurthy on guitars; Juha Merimaa on keyboards; Mike LePond on bass guitars; Gavin Carignan on drums, percussion, and additional vocals.

Buy the digital version of Let It Fly or the CD at store.cdbaby.com/cd/seasonofthecrow.

Metamorphic Electronic Dreams

Dan Pound – Dreams That Take You (Pound Sounds, 2017)

Electronic music artist Dan Pound takes the listener into the subconscious mind. Dreams That Take You is a sonic voyage that features hypnotic floating synths, mysterious ambient soundscapes, trance-like beats, and shamanic vocals.

The primary musical instrument in this recording is a synthesizer called Evolver, designed by Dave Smith. Dan Pound found this synth especially effective as he developed his dream atmospheres.

Dreams That Take You is a deeply satisfying ambient electronic music album.

Buy Dreams That Take You

Riveting Pelagos

Pelagos – Revolve (Svart Records, 2018)

Pelagos is a fantastic band from southwestern Finland, whose members evolved and progressed from heavy metal towards mesmerizing electronic sounds.

The band plays a mix of absorbing psychedelic space rock, dreamy harmonies,processed vocals, and forward looking trippy electronica.

The highlights of the album are the spellbinding Aphrodite’s Shore, Muted Stars and the fabulous closing track Embryo.

Revolve will be available in June. You can preorder here: www.svartrecords.com/product/revolve-4/#