Chilled Out Erik Wøllo

Erik Wøllo - Silent Currents: Live at Star's End

Erik Wøllo

Silent Currents: Live at Star’s End (Projekt 262, 2011)

This 2 CD set presents the deep ambient facet of Norwegian guitarist and synthesist Erik Wøllo. His studio albums normally mix ambient sounds with engaging melodies and rhythms. However, on Silent Currents he performs two extensive pieces of superb space music with a bigger focus on drones.

The two pieces are extracted from two separate live radio broadcasts for the iconic Star’s End electronic music radio show in Philadelphia. Each of these performances, Silent Currents 1 from 2002 and Silent Currents 2 from 2007 are each a disc-long uninterrupted composition with several sections.
This alternate universe of Erik Wøllo’s music presents ambient music performed on guitars, guitar synthesizers and analog and digital synthesizers. The mesmerizing pieces flow seamlessly and morph into dreamlike episodes, evoking endless space, with downtempo atmospheres, soaring guitars, spatial explorations and bubbly sequences.

I have been kindly invited to perform at Star’s End multiple times,” says Wøllo. “To perform ‘on the air’ late at night in the radio studio contributed to these unique and inspired performances. In this setting, it felt very natural to do some downtempo and quiet, floating ambient music. Thus, this release is more abstract and chilled out than I usually present on my studio albums. Some elements of the music were improvised; I brought various sound excerpts, loops and atmospheres, and performed and composed these into long continuous zones, all done in real time.”

Silent Currents is Wøllo’s 15th album. In 2010 he released Gateway on the Projekt label and last June, Wøllo released The Road Eternal, which is a collaboration with deep space ambient electronic music master Steve Roach.

Star’s End is one of the longest-running radio shows of ambient music in the world. Since 1976, this program has provided the Philadelphia broadcast area with weekly midnight electronic music adventures.

Over the years Star’s End has hosted many live to air concerts, usually with artists fresh from The Gatherings Concert Series stage,” says Chuck Van Zyl, host of Star’s End. “The act of playing a second, more intimate concert after a public event provides a sense of summation to a powerful experience. But the unique radio venue also offers musicians a space for discovery, as they turn from focused music for The Gatherings community to atmospheres for an audience each in their own dream space. Erik Wøllo enthusiastically embraces this idea using his on-air concerts to explore moods and zones only found in the late hour and unconventional situation. There is an interesting energy arcing through Silent Currents: Erik descends into himself, realizing music completely in the moment. The resulting new works are wonderful expressions of ambience, texture and this artist’s potent sense of drama as Wøllo creates space, then fills it with ever-evolving sound.”

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic to Perform at ProgDay 2012

Birdsongs of the Mesozoic - Photo by Claire Folger
ProgDay has announced that American band Birdsongs of the Mesozoic will be performing at the 2012 edition of the festival. “Progday is very pleased to host a long-overdue performance by these masters of contemporary prog.” ProgDay 2012 will take place on Saturday, September 1st, and Sunday, September 2nd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Birdsongs is an instrumental quartet created in 1980 as a more classical/New Music, keyboard-oriented side project of Boston’s famed post-punk rock band, Mission of Burma. Desiring an outlet for his piano music, in 1980, Burma’s guitarist Roger Miller embarked on collaboration with keyboardist and studio producer Erik Lindgren, the former composer and keyboardist of Moving Parts, the Boston art-punk band that had spawned Burma.

To play a short, live set of Birdsongs’ music for the sampler’s 1981 record release party, Miller and Lindgren invited “tape-manipulator-turned–guitarist” Martin Swope, Miller’s co-member in Burma, and keyboardist Rick Scott to perform. Although originally assembled only for a one-shot performance, the quartet became Birdsong’s regular working lineup. The four skilled composer/musicians operated Birdsongs as a composers’ collective, with each member contributing pieces and having equal say in the group’s artistic direction.

Roger Miller left the Birdsongs in 1988 on very friendly terms. Since 1989, when Birdsongs of the Mesozoic signed to DC-based Cuneiform Records to release its 4th recording, Faultline the band has released over 10 albums and earned well-deserved, international recognition for its innovative, cross boundaries sound.

ProgDay is the longest running progressive rock festival in the world. For more information, and to hear music from this year’s bands, visit www.progday.net.

Progressive Rock Icons Chris Squire and Steve Hackett form Squackett

Steve Hackett
Two legendary progressive rock musicians, guitarist Steve Hackett and bassist Chris Squire have formed a new band and have recorded a new album. The Squackett album is scheduled for release on Esoteric Records (which is part of Cherry Red Records), around May 2012.

Chris Squire performed on Hackett’s solo albums Out of the Tunnel’s Mouth and Beyond the Shrouded Horizon. In turn, Hackett participated in Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir (2007). It is unclear if this new project will go in a progressive rock direction.

Steve Hackett was a member of Genesis during their progressive rock stage, from their album Nursery Cryme (1971) through Wind and Wuthering (1976). After leaving Genesis, Hackett recorded several progressive rock solo albums and later formed the Adult Oriented Rock (AOR) band GTR with Steve Howe (Yes). He has recorded blues and rock albums in recent years. His most recent work is the double Beyond the Shrouded Horizon. It contains a mix of beautiful acoustic pieces, blues, pop and progressive rock tracks.

Chris Squire has been part of Yes from the very beginning. He has released two solo albums, Fish Out of Water (1975) and Chris Squire’s Swiss Choir (2007). Chris Squire’s most recent recording is Fly From Here, with the new Bugglesfied version of Yes.

Acclaimed German Progressive Rock Album Reissued by Tempus Fugit

Ines - Hunting The Fox
Hunting The Fox (Tempus Fugit), a much-admired debut album by female keyboardist and composer Ines is now available as a digital download or CD on demand in some territories.

The album was originally released on CD in 1994. In 2010, Hunting The Fox was remastered and is now available worldwide for the first time.

In 1994 “Hunting The Fox” surprised the world of progressive rock with Ines Fuchs’ masterful keyboard work in the fine tradition of renowned keyboardists such as Martin Orford (IQ), Matthias Ulmer (Anyone’s Daughter) or Tony Banks (Genesis).

Aside from Ines on keyboards, the album features her husband Hansi Fuchs, Chris Bianchi d’Espinosa and Massimo “Max” Michieletto from Asgard on guitars, as well as a few studio musicians.

Hansi Fuchs sings a few of the songs. Other pieces were sung by Italian singer Kikko Grosso (Asgard), and four tracks were sung by Harald Bareth, the former lead singer of Swabian grand masters of progressive rock, Anyone’s Daughter.

Harald Bareth’s contribution was a real surprise to the progressive rock scene as he is one of the most popular singers in this genre, and since the 1984 Anyone’s Daughter live album he hasn’t sung anywhere else. Harald’s four songs on this album – “Water”, “Earth, Sun and Moon”, “Meet Me on the Mountain”, and “Innocent Girl” – are some special highlights on this throughout well done neo-progressive album. Those four songs quickly achieved iconic status among the many Anyone’s Daughter fans around the world.

Hunting The Fox is one of the leading German neo-prog albums from the mid-1990s. Ines also released Eastern Dawning (1996), The Flow (1999), and Slipping Into the Unknown (2002).

Digital version (North America)

CD or digital version (Europe)

It Was Only a Dream

Omni - Sólo fue un sueño
Omni

Sólo fue un sueño (self released, 2007)

If you like the music of British progressive rock band Camel, you’ll really enjoy this recording by Spanish band Omni. Based in southern Spain, in the Jerez and Puerto de Santa Maria area, Omni is heavily influenced by the Camel sound of the Mirage and Snow Goose era. Omni plays instrumental pieces, using guitars, keyboards and flute/saxophone that intertwine and create seductive melodies, combining fine symphonic rock with jazz excursions.

Sólo fue un sueño (it was only a dream) was released in 2007. Apparently, the band is still around, but this is the latest release so far. At the time, Omni was led by guitarist Michael Starry, who seems to have American background, but has been living in Spain for many years. The rest of the band includes bassist Jesús Cabral, keyboardist Alberto Márquez, Juan Rios on rhythm guitar, Pepe Torres on flute and sax and Ismael Colón on drums and percussion.

Although the Camel influence dominates the album, Omni also incorporates influences from Andalusian music. On the lengthy piece El tren de Rota, they add Andalusian melodies and beats and recall the sound of the legendary Iman, Califato Independiente.

Omni’s previous recordings include Tras el puente (1990) and El vals de los duendes (2001).

Sólo fue un sueño is a fine album of classic progressive rock by one of the finest bands in Spain.

Music Video: Bruce Arnold Plays Runway on Double Neck

Bruce Arnold
Guitarist Bruce Arnold provides a masterful demonstration of jazz rock fusion on his Music Man double neck and Asher slide guitar along with Kirk Driscoll on drums and Jerry DeVore on electric bass. The performance was part of the New York University (NYU) Summer Guitar Intensive.

Bruce Arnold was born in 1955 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, USA. He is an author, composer, educator and guitarist residing in New York City. He explores the applications of 20th century classical theory in contemporary forms, such as Rock and Jazz, creating a unique compositional and improvisational sound. As a guest artist Arnold has toured Australia, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Japan, Mexico, Russia and the United States.

His performance and recording activities include work with a wide array of styles. He has played with such diverse musicians as Stuart Hamm, Peter Erskine, Joe Pass, Joe Lovano, Lennie Pickett, Randy Brecker, Stanley Clarke, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Absolute Ensemble under the baton of Kristjan Järvi.

Bruce Arnold’s recording credits include over twenty five CDs and DVDs (on Muse-eek Records, MelBay Recordings, Truefire and other labels), ranging from the standard jazz repertoire to free improvisation to the reinterpretations of classical music with the ensemble Spooky Actions. His compositions are published by Muse Eek Publishing, and MelBay Productions.

Bruce Arnold plays “Runway.” from Michal Shapiro on Vimeo.

Arnold’s theoretical works have explored the use of Pitch Class Set Theory within a improvisational setting. He is also written more than 60 music instruction books covering Guitar Pedagogy, Ear Training and Time Studies. He is the director of guitar studies at New York University and Princeton University as well as the creator of the New York University Summer Guitar Intensive. He has taught at New England Conservatory of Music, Dartmouth College, Berklee College of Music, New School University, and City College of New York.

He is a totally dedicated guitarist who likes to practice for at least 3 hours a day. He also likes to work with the computer program SuperCollider to achieve his various effects.

His latest CD is Heavy Mental (Muse-eek Records, 2010)

A Saucerful Of Secrets Remastered

Pink Floyd - A Saucerful Of Secrets
Pink Floyd

A Saucerful Of Secrets (EMI, 1968)

A Saucerful Of Secrets was the second studio recording by Pink Floyd. It was remastered this year and is now available with improved sound quality. A Saucerful Of Secrets was recorded at a difficult time for Pink Floyd. The band’s main lyricist and guitarist, Syd Barrett, was having serious mental health problems and became increasingly unreliable.

If you look at the album credits, you’ll see that guitarist David Gilmour appears along with Barrett. Gilmour was brought in as replacement for Barrett during the recording and brought with him his innovative guitar style.

At this stage of the band, most of the material was composed by bassist Roger Waters and keyboardist Rick Wright. Pink Floyd was still in a musical transition. Pieces such as the hypnotic Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun and the instrumental ‘A Saucerful Of Secrets,’ introduced the experimental music and space rock tendencies of the band. Wright’s keyboards and Gilmour’s guitars ventured into uncharted territory. However, some pop elements remained in songs like ‘Corporal Clegg’ and ‘Jugband Blues’ both of which had a very Beatles-like flavor.

The album includes a delightful dreamy piece by Wright titled’ See-Saw,’ where his memorable mellotron plays an essential role.

A Saucerful Of Secrets set the ground for Pink Floyd’s space music explorations, introduced a key new member (David Gilmour) and made wide use of the mellotron, one of the most beloved musical instruments in the world of progressive rock.

Instrumental Rock Chemistry

The Aristocrats - The Aristocrats
The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats
(Boing Music (2011)

The Aristocrats is a new instrumental high energy rock band formed by reputable virtuoso musicians based in various parts of the world. Members include guitarist Guthrie Govan (Asia/GPS, Dizzie Rascal), bassist Bryan Beller (Steve Vai, Dethklok, Mike Keneally), and drummer Marco Minnemann (Adrian Belew, UKZ, Necrophagist).

Their debut album is the self-titled The Aristocrats and features three compositions from each band member. The result of the meeting of these three minds is a mix of hard rock/metal and fusion. Naturally, I’m more interested in the fusion pieces, where the musicians combine musical virtuosity and Satriani and Vai-like electric guitar shredding with superb bass solos and elements of jazz and blues, recalling the sounds of King Crimson, Return to Forever and Frank Zappa.

The best cuts on the album are the laid back “Sweaty Knockers”, “Bad Asteroid”, and “Flatlands”, the exploratory “Furtive Jack” and the fusion piece “Get It Like that.’

Although the musicians are based in two different continents, they left their homes (outside London; Nashville, Tennessee; and southern California) to meet in a Chicago studio. “We ended up using our different influences to write for each other,” says bassist Beller. “I wrote “Sweaty Knockers” specifically for Guthrie to have fun with, while Guthrie wrote “I Want A Parrot” with bass leads in mind. As for Marco’s material, we’re just lucky to be able to keep up with it!

The Aristocrats was formed after an enthusiastic response to a single concert at The Anaheim Bass Bash during the Winter NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show in January 2011. With just one rehearsal the night before the gig, the trio had a successful experience. “The chemistry was so great,” recalls Govan, who was recently featured on the cover of Guitar Player, “that when we came offstage we all said to each other, ‘This is working. We should record this.’”

Video of the week: Stranger In Your Soul Pt 1 by Transatlantic

Transatlantic
The music video of this week is Stranger In Your Soul by multinational progressive rock band Transatlantic. Stranger In Your Soul Pt 1 is extracted from the Transatlantic DVD “Live In Europe.”

Transatlantic is the progressive rock supergroup formed by outstanding musicians from various countries who have performed in some of the finest progressive rock bands of the 1980s and 1990s, including Neal Morse (former Spock’s Beard), Roine Stolt (The Flower Kings), and Pete Trewavas (Marillion). The band also includes Mike Portnoy of the hard rock/metal band Dream Theater.

Stranger In Your Soul Pt 1 was taken from the band’s 2001 album titled Bridge Across Forever.

Historical Prog Band Returns with More Andalusian Essence

Cai - Metaforas de Luz
Cai

Metaforas de Luz (Bujio BJ201, 2010)

Cai was one of the legendary Andalusian progressive rock groups of the 1970s. In 2007 they came back with a double CD titled Mucho Mas Alla De Nuestras Mentes Diminutas, a reissue of their first CD with bonus material. Three years later, they released their latest studio recording, Metaforas de Luz (Metaphors of Light). The album brings back the captivating elements that made Cai such an essential band in Spanish progressive rock history. With Metaforas de Luz, Cai once more delivers a passionate mix of Flamenco, symphonic rock and jazz forms.

Cai is down to a trio on the album. Missing from the line-up is renowned keyboardist Chano Dominguez. He lives in another part of Spain now and is currently a worldwide famous jazz pianist. Without Chano, the lead instrumentalist is masterful guitarist José Antonio Fernandez Mariscal “El Niño”, who plays acoustic and electric guitars as well as bass.

Founding member Diego Fopiani continues to provide drums and the Flamenco-influenced vocals that characterize Andalusian rock bands. Blas Lago, a younger musician, plays keyboards. Bassist Salvador Otero plays with the live version of the band.

Metaforas de Luz is a fine example of symphonic progressive rock with a Spanish flavor by a legendary band that still sounds fresh and creative.

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Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond