Legendary Dutch Band Focus to Begin South American Tour

Dutch progressive rock band Focus will be touring Brazil and Argentina starting Friday, March 9th. The current version of the legendary band features founder Thijs van Leer on keyboards, flute and vocals and Pierre van der Linden on drums together with new members Menno Gootjes on guitar and Bobby Jacobs on bass.

The group’s latest recording is Focus 9 / New Skin, released on the Red Bullet label of Willem van Kooten. Focus will be playing the latest material as well their prog rock classics from the 1970s.

Tour Dates:

March 9
Belo Horizonte MG – ESOPO
Brazil
esopo.com.br

March 10
Pouso Alegre MG – Teatro Municipal
Brazil
ticketbrasil.com.br/novos/

March 14
Rio De Janeiro Teatro Rival
Brazil
rivalpetrobras.com.br

March 15
Goiania Bolshoi
Brazil
bolshoipub.com.br/eventos/semana
March 16
Votorantim Pedreira do Icatu
Brazil

March 17
Sao Paulo Carioca Club
Brazil
www.cariocaclub.com.br/events

March 21
Buenos Aires Teatro Coliseo
Argentina

Deep Water Ambience

Dan Pound - Medusazoa
Dan Pound

Medusazoa (Pound Sounds PS11, 2011)

American synthesist Dan Pound takes you on a fascinating underwater immersion with his latest CD, Medusazoa. The album is dedicated to the graceful movement and vibrant bioluminescence of jellyfish flowing and drifting with the ocean currents. It contains a series of tranquil ambient pieces with distant hypnotic pulses, dreamy drones, and flowing atmospheres.

A few years ago, during a music conference, I had the opportunity to visit the National Aquarium in Baltimore (Maryland). At the time, they had a temporary jellyfish exhibit and I stood for minutes, mesmerized, watching the strangely beautiful bioluminescent creatures. Medusazoa captures that sensation and would make a great soundtrack companion to such an exhibit.

Dan Pound used analog modular synth drones, patches and effects to make Medusazoa with the intent of making ‘pure underwater dream zone music.’

Dan Pound was classically trained. He learned piano, guitar and double bass at an early age and started writing songs soon after. Pound joined the local honor orchestra and was soon writing pieces for the entire ensemble. In addition to performing and composing, Dan has earned degrees in recording engineering and electronic music technology.

Over several years, Dan Pound has pieced together a home studio where he does most of his work now, recording and producing his music independently. He specializes in music for film and multimedia. He also records and produces his own albums on his Pound Sounds label.

Medusazoa is a fine example of atmospheric electronic music by one of the current talents in the ambient music scene.

Steam Theory Releases Helios Rider

Steam Theory - Helios Rider
Steam Theory announced the release of its second album, Helios Rider. Steam Theory is a Baltimore (Maryland) based recording project and accompanying live band that performs original progressive rock around the Baltimore and Washington D.C. region.

Helios Rider is a follow up to 2010’s Enduring Delirium album. The new disc includes 9 original instrumentals that combine elements from progressive rock, Americana, Funk, and Fusion.

Jason Denkevitz is the musician behind the project. He is joined by Karras Johnson on drums; Sherif Shalaan on Keyboards and Ori Shokek on Keyboards.

The album is available now on CD from cdbaby.com/cd/steamtheory and is also available as a digital download from steamtheory.com and other digital stores.

Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) to Reissue Expanded Re-mastered Editions of First Six Albums

Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Legendary progressive rock band Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) and Razor & Tie have signed an exclusive new multi-year, multi-rights licensing deal for North America. Razor & Tie will re-issue ELP’s prog classics. The first release, The Best of Emerson Lake & Palmer: Come & See The Show is available now for purchase on digital stores and in traditional retail outlets. The best of, 14-track compilation includes some of the band’s most beloved compositions including “Lucky Man,” “From The Beginning,” “I Believe In Father Christmas,” and the full 9-minute version of the classic, “Fanfare For The Common Man.”

A full catalog re-issue campaign will begin later this year with the release of newly expanded, re-mastered, editions of the band’s first six albums: Emerson, Lake and Palmer (1970- Studio Album), Tarkus (1971- Studio Album), Pictures At An Art Exhibition (1971- Live Album), Trilogy (1972- Studio Album), Brain Salad Surgery (1973- Studio Album), and Welcome Back My Friends To The Show That Never Ends (1974- Live Album).

As Emerson, Lake & Palmer remain unique in their categories, it’s only fitting that they are now with a record company with a unique name like ‘Razor & Tie,” explains keyboardist Keith Emerson. “Don’t question anything as the music speaks for itself and ‘Razor & Tie’ yells volumes on ELP’s behalf.”

The time was right to make this move,” says ELP drummer Carl Palmer. “It’s a great, enthusiastic music company.”

Greg Lake also enthuses, “We are looking forward to a long and productive relationship together.”

We are very excited and honored to distribute and represent the Emerson Lake and Palmer catalog,” added Razor & Tie co-owner Cliff Chenfeld. “ELP helped create prog rock and we will use this opportunity to bring ELP’s amazing body of work to an even broader audience and to finally understand what the Tarkus album cover means.”

Considered by many to be one of rock’s original first super-groups, Emerson Lake & Palmer was formed in England in 1970, consisting of Keith Emerson (keyboards), Greg Lake (bass guitar, vocals, guitar) and Carl Palmer (drums, percussion). The band created a brand new type of music, combining classical and symphonic rock fused with beautiful vocals. Their penchant for appropriating themes from classical music and the group’s more nuanced, textured approach to symphonic arrangements set ELP apart from their guitar-based contemporaries of the time.

Along with Yes, King Crimson, Genesis, and Gentle Giant, Emerson Lake and Palmer ushered in the progressive rock era and as one of the most commercially successful rock bands of the 1970’s having sold over 40 million albums. ELP’s dramatic flair, sincere passion, labyrinthine song structures, and symphony-worthy virtuosity proved that classical rockers could compete for arena-scale audiences as the band headlined stadium tours around the world.

The Best Of Emerson Lake & Palmer: Come & See The Show, Track List:

1. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression – Part 2
2. Lucky Man
3. From The Beginning
4. Knife-Edge
5. Hoedown (Taken From Rodeo)
6. Jerusalem
7. C’est La Vie
8. Still…You Turn Me On
9. Tank
10. Fanfare For The Common Man
11. Toccata
12. Peter Gunn
13. Nutrocker
14. I Believe In Father Christmas

Interview with Multi-Instrumentalist and Composer Ben Craven

Ben Craven
Australian progressive rock phenom Ben Craven has attracted worldwide attention in the progressive rock community with his second album, Great & Terrible Potions. The superb concept album mixes conventional songs with orchestral soundtracks. The artwork was made by legendary illustrator Roger Dean, who made the famous covers for Yes, Uriah Heep, Greenslade and Asia.

Craven discusses his musical background and various projects with Progressive Rock Central.

When did you start playing music?

I was 6 when I took up the violin. Unfortunately I was never very good at it since I hated practicing and was only ever taught to play the notes on the page. Luckily I learned a bit about music theory along the way, which could then be applied to other instruments.

What kind of musical training do you have?

That was it! I picked up a guitar fairly late in the game when I was 17, and everything started to fall into place. By that time I was more interested in not taking lessons and not studying music, so as not to take away the magic, and I wanted to rely on my instincts instead.

I’m sure formal training could have brought my technical skills up to speed much faster. But then I would have missed out on the exploration and self-discovery and interesting mistakes that all go towards forming your own musical identity. As with everything perhaps the best approach is somewhere in between.

How many instruments do you play?

Ben Craven - Photo by Michelle Aziz
Enough to be dangerous. Early on when I started writing I decided that the best way for me to get ideas out of my head was to be able to play them myself. So I’ve picked up different instruments over the years as a means to an end, rather than with the intention of mastering any one of them in particular.

In the 1970s when Mike Oldfield was doing it, being a multi-instrumentalist was remarkable. Now not so much. I can play piano and drums well enough for my own needs, and if you can play guitar you can have a crack at most stringed instruments, which I like to do. There’s some mandolin on my first album, lap steels all over the place, and I recently bought a pedal steel that needs my attention.

Which is your favorite instrument?

Fairly obviously I lean towards guitar, electric mainly. More than any other instrument I think it responds the most to the personality of the player. And on top of that there’s so much sonic territory you can explore with the choice of guitar, amplifier, pickups and effects.

But having said that I can imagine I’d be fairly contented if fate placed me in the role of a lead bass player, or decreed I must play keyboards.

When did you discover progressive rock?

Apparently I was subjected endlessly to Dark Side Of The Moon in the womb. I can believe it. I remember when I was 3 or so being particularly keen on a tape of Days Of Future Passed by the Moody Blues. So these sorts of things were in my blood before I realized it, and certainly before I had any notion of musical genres, or the unfashionability of prog at the time.

Gradually I became a huge fan of Pink Floyd, and this led me to reach out to Yes, King Crimson, ELP and Genesis. I’ll never forget the first time I heard Heart Of The Sunrise or Close To The Edge.

Who can you cite as your main musical influences?

Ben Craven - Photo by Michelle Aziz
Pink Floyd, Yes and Mike Oldfield are fairly obvious influences I think. The Beach Boys perhaps less obvious. Brian Wilson is a rite of passage that a lot of writers seem to go through. One day Beach Boys songs are catchy little things with pleasant harmonies that you take for granted. The next day after delving a little deeper they’re right at the pinnacle of pop music and you can’t go back.

Film music composers like John Williams, John Barry, Bernard Herrmann and Jerry Goldsmith are also incredibly influential. They can take the classical format and produce a 3-minute theme which is as good as anything I’ve heard. My favorite movies are the ones which are strong enough to withstand fantastic scores, and listening to the score on its own can be as good as watching the movie.

I was very upset when John Barry and Jerry Goldsmith passed away, and I’m incredibly grateful that John Williams seems to be just as strong as ever. It’s encouraging to take their lead and assume I still have 50 years of writing ahead of me!

How does the composition process work?

I’m sure it’s very different for different people. But for me there’s the inspiration and then the perspiration. The raw diamonds in the rough, the little nuggets of musical inspiration, can happen anywhere, anytime and be triggered by anything. Brian Wilson called them “feels”. It’s incredibly important to capture them at conception and let them develop as much as possible in those brief moments before the conscious mind takes control again, as it generally likes to do. Later on comes the completely different process of being a craftsman, choosing arrangements and song structures, and consciously making decisions about lyrics. That’s the hard work, but it makes all the difference between a finished song and an unfinished snippet.

Where do you get your inspiration from?

Ben Craven - Photo by Kris Anderson
That’s a difficult question. Musically, mostly I have to inspire myself these days. Otherwise the bulk of my musical inspiration would come from looking back, which isn’t altogether healthy. Fortunately it’s very easy for me to get excited about the act of musical creation, the thrill of hearing a piece of music evolve, and all the creative possibilities I can play around with until it’s finished. It’s pretty much self-sustaining and I haven’t got tired of it yet.

On the bigger scale, I take most of my inspiration from people who have managed to make a living out of creative freedom. Whether it be in film, art, books, whatever. It somehow makes a piece of work much more interesting to me if I know it’s exactly the way the creator intended it, and it’s done with conviction.

Tell us about your first recordings.

I had a dual cassette recorder and a cheap children’s keyboard with miniature keys. I discovered there was a “mixing mic” input on the back of the cassette recorder, which let me record one live overdub as a tape copied. It was a crude way of making multi-track recordings, and by the time you were finished the first track was lost in tape hiss and had been completely detuned. Still, great fun.

When I was 16 a friend introduced me to MOD trackers on the PC, which was a 4-track system using samples, note information and awful sample rates. But suddenly I was able to get ideas out of my head into a band format. I moved onto basic MIDI and followed sequencers as they grew to include audio tracks, until desktop computers were powerful enough to handle multi-track audio. Then I started recording demos for my first album, Two False Idols. By the time audio plugins were within my reach, I knew that I could also be the studio.

Your most recent album has made a splash in the progressive rock community. Why did you decide to do it as a solo project?

Ben Craven - Great & Terrible Potions
I explored progressive rock in a social vacuum. It’s not something any of my friends were particularly interested in, so I spent a lot of time listening alone. Likewise, with a few exceptions, my songwriting has generally been a solitary activity, with nobody around to criticize, improve or dilute it, and I’ve become accustomed to working that way. So when it came to record Great & Terrible Potions, I was cursed with very definite ideas on how the different instruments should sound, and I wanted to see them to fruition. I ended up being my own band, and tried to give different musical personalities to the virtual band members.

I imagine that if I’d lived in London or LA [Los Angeles] I would have met enough like-minded musicians by now to have formed a band where everyone contributed creatively. That was my intention on my first album, Two False Idols, but it never worked out that way.

You used the legendary graphic artist Roger Dean for your album design. How did you connect with him?

After the album was recorded, I explored the idea of releasing it through a local record label. The head of the label loved it and suggested that a Roger Dean cover would go very well with the music. Well, duh! Pipe dream, I thought, so I disregarded it almost straight away. But it turned out he had a friendship with Roger. We made contact and eventually came to an agreement.

Of course I’d previously met Roger and got his autograph in Sydney when Yes toured Australia in 2003, but I was just another Yes fanboy and I’m fairly sure he didn’t remember!

I’m incredibly pleased with how it all turned out. I think the painting is beautiful and it matches the dark and sinister atmosphere of most of the music very well. And it’s still hard to believe I’ve worked with one of the greatest cover artists in the world.

How important are the other art components, aside from music?

The music is most important, but I have a hard time separating some of the great classic rock albums from their iconic covers. And I’ve always been a stickler for poring over the artwork or packaging, whether it was a gatefold vinyl cover when I was a kid, or a CD booklet. It doesn’t hurt to titillate the other senses at the same time.

Now that digital downloading is taking over, I think it’s more important than ever to give people a reason to buy a physical copy. The artwork and the packaging, even the medium, can help with that. I’ve been hassled by a few people demanding to see Great & Terrible Potions on vinyl. I’m delighted to say it’s on its way in a few weeks, with a Roger Dean gatefold sleeve!

Will you be continuing to work as a solo artist or do you plan to form a band?

I can’t imagine not working as a solo artist for a while. It was a long and considered decision to put my name on the front of Great & Terrible Potions, rather than use an imaginary band name. Potions is an independent release, so with my limited funding I’ve been promoting and hoping to build up the “Ben Craven” name.

However that leads to a few problems playing live. I’ve actually just started rehearsing with a 3-piece band, reinterpreting the songs in a band context for live performance. Somehow we’ve managed to distill the symphony orchestra and soundscapes on the 11-minute ‘No Specific Harm’ down to just us!

Do you have any tours planned?

Not at this stage but I’m hoping we can do some small tours once the show is polished.

Have you been approached by any progressive rock artists inside or outside of Australia?

Not really. I don’t think Australia has a very strong progressive rock community, and I’m still fairly unknown to boot. Having said that, I’m incredibly easy to contact and open to considering all sorts of collaborations!

How’s the progressive rock scene in Australia now?

I think Australian progressive rock is doing much better overseas than in Australia. A few bands like Unitopia and Anubis have done very well, and Sebastian Hardie has a new one out too. But there’s very limited local radio support and the population is just too small for sustained live work. Most of the prog rock market appears to be overseas. In fact my biggest sales have been in Europe.

Making a living from music is not easy, are you a full time musician?

I’m afraid not. I’m the musician, the studio and the label, which means I fund the lot and need a day job! The advantage of that situation is I have complete creative control and don’t have to worry too much about compromising my work to meet a particular deadline.

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

I’d be thrilled to work with any of my musical heroes from any aforementioned bands. I’d equally be as thrilled just to have a drink with them. I think Billy Sherwood has the right idea, producing tribute albums and collaborating with everyone he wants to! Bill Bruford or Nick Mason please give me a call to discuss your session fee for playing drums on my next album.

What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?

That nobody really cares. The music “business”, like any business, is there primarily to make money. These people need to make a living. If you as an artist can help the business make money, the business will be friends with you. But mainly because of your potential for making income, rather than your artistry. Artistry and commerce working hand in hand is a precarious position fraught with danger.

Ben Craven - Two False Idols
But once you choose not to take any of this stuff personally, it’s up to you whether or not you want to work within those confines. Great & Terrible Potions was made outside of the business. I can’t see how I could have done it any other way.

Are you working on new projects?

I’ve just finished working on the vinyl version of Great & Terrible Potions, and the LPs should be arriving at my doorstep any day now. I’ve also completely remixed and remastered my previous album, Two False Idols, which is available on Bandcamp shortly.

I’m halfway through a concept album about a turn-of-the-century Oklahoma outlaw who just happened to be called Ben Cravens. It’s a strange combination of country and prog. But I’m itching to start working on the natural follow-up to Potions. The demos have been completed for a while and I’m really looking forward to finishing them off. It will probably have more symphonic elements and teeter on the edge between film soundtrack and rock album.

Prog Band RPWL Releases “Unchain the Earth” Video

RPWL
German progressive rock band RPWL have a new music video from their new album from Beyond Man and Time. The video is for the song “Unchain the Earth.” Beyond Man and Time is a concept album based on a musical voyage through the world outside of Plato’s cave. “Beyond Man And Time” will be released on 9th March, and on 13th March in the U.S.

RPWL is known for its combination of elaborate symphonic rock and soft rock songs. The current RPWL line-up includes Yogi Lang on vocals and keyboards; Kalle Wallner on guitars; Markus Jehle on Keyboards; Werner Taus on bass; and Marc Turiaux on drums.

The band will be touring Germany, Poland, Austria, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain this spring to promote the new album.

Guitarist Peter Matuchniak to Release Uncover Me on ProgRock Records

Peter Matuchniak - Uncover Me
Progressive rock guitarist Peter Matuchniak has a new album titled “Uncover Me” that is set for release on ProgRock Records. The album is described as a wide musical experience through progressive, jazz, folk and rock. The two-part Landscape Burning suite features 15 minutes of music reminiscent of Pink Floyd and Alan Parsons.

Uncover Me offers acoustic music laced with flute as well as harder-edged rock tunes doused with saxophone. The underlying basis is Peter Matuchniak weaving his ethereal guitar sound into his compositions.

I’ve been fortunate to have some fantastic local musicians support me on this one: Jimmy Keegan (drummer for Spock’s Beard), Natalie Azerad (singer with Pink Floyd tribute W1P and live with Alan Parsons), Rick Meadows (bassist from Gekko Projekt), Ted Zahn (singer with WZMG), along with some fine sax and flute from classical/jazz musicians David Gilman and Conor Jonson,” said Peter Matuchniak. “Shawn Gordon offers a great place for music that falls in and around the progressive genre at “TheRecordLabel”, and I’m proud to have my debut album be a part of his label.”

Since I met and signed Peters band Evolve IV back in 2008, we’ve become good friends and I’m continually amazed by his talent and drive,” said said Shawn Gordon, president of ProgRock Records. “It’s a real pleasure to be able to work with him on this solo release.”

British guitarist Peter Matuchniak plays a progressive style of guitar influenced by Steve Hackett (Genesis), Dave Gilmour (Pink Floyd), Andy Latimer (Camel) and Steve Howe (Yes).

His compositional style draws from the varied genres he was exposed to at home: jazz-rock, the latest radio hits, and parents who raised him on classical music. But the basic element is always progressive rock. Peter Matuchniak has played with a number of bands in this genre both in London where he grew up as well as in his adopted southern California home.

Recently he has released albums with Gekko Projekt and Evolve IV on the Prog Rock Records label. Back in the 1980’s Peter Matuchniak was part of the neo-progressive rock movement with Janysium and Mach One.

Hybrid Musical Stories and Fables

Luz de Riada - Cuentos y Fábulas
Luz de Riada

Cuentos y Fábulas (2011)

One of the leading bands in the Mexican progressive rock scene is Luz de Riada. They mix highly technical avant-garde rock with jazz, folk music and freeform improvisation. Their album Cuentos y Fábulas (Stories and Fables) is divided into two types of pieces. Cuentos (stories or tales) are structured compositions that feature guest musicians and a poet while the fábulas are short freeform sonic segments.

The imaginary stories in Cuentos y Fábulas describe modern life, mythical creatures and emotions expressed through the band’s hybrid sound. Luz de Riada’s sound is characterized by a potent King Crimsonesque rhythm section with various saxophones, guitar and stick performing solos and carrying out elaborate musical conversations. Although most of the pieces are instrumental, the album includes two pieces with unconventional lyrics and a spoken word poem.

Luz de Riada was formed in June 2010 when four self-taught musicians got together to develop and narrate musical stories. They choose the name Luz de Riada, which means flood of light to identify the generation of sound imagery. The current line-up includes Ramsés Luna on flute, sax, Wx5; Hugo Santos on grand stick, bass; Hugo Hernández on drums; and Alejandro Vergara on guitars.

Guests on the album include Wilfrido Terrazas on flute; Alejandro Otaola on guitar; Hugo Alfredo on surdo; Iván Tirado on surdo; Floriano Martin on vocals; Carlos Alegre on violin; Iván Bringas on guitar; Ernesto Mendoza on theremin; and Rodrigo Frenk on accordion.

Cuentos y Fábulas comes with innovative packaging, which includes several layers and a booklet with lyrics, photos, illustrations, a description of the music and credits.

Cuentos y Fábulas presents the uncategorizable sounds of some of Mexico’s most adventurous experimentalists.

Buy the album from http://www.luzderiada.com

Swedish Prog Band Moon Safari Releases Live Album The Gettysburg Address

Moon Safari - The Gettysburg Address
Moon Safari, one of Europe’s leading progressive rock bands, has a new album titled The Gettysburg Address. The Gettysburg Address is Moon Safari’s fourth release. It is a two CD set recorded live during their epic performance at the Majestic Theatre in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, at Rosfest 2011.

The Gettysburg Address includes some of Moon Safari’s most popular songs from all three studio albums.

Moon Safari is a symphonic progressive rock band from Skellefteå, Sweden. It was formed in 2003 and have three studio albums: A Doorway to Summer (2005), Blomljud (2008), and Lover’s End (2010).

The line-up includes Simon Åkesson on lead vocals, backing vocals, piano, Hammond organ, moog, mellotron, choir arrangements; Petter Sandström on lead vocals, backing vocals, acoustic guitar, harmonica; Pontus Åkesson on guitars, backing vocals; Johan Westerlund on bass, backing vocals; and Tobias Lundgren on drums, percussion, backing vocals.

Album tracks

1 – CD1 – Moonwalk
2 – CD1 – Lover’s End – Part 1
3 – CD1 – A Kid Called Panic
4 – CD1 – Yasgurs Farm
5 – CD1 – The World’s Best Dreamers

6 – CD2 – Dance Across The Ocean
7 – CD2 – Heartland
8 – CD2 – New York City Summergirl
9 – CD2 – Other Half of the Sky

the album is available from therecordlabel.net

Ben Craven Remixes Two False Idols

Ben Craven - Two False Idols
Australian progressive rock multi-instrumentalist Ben Craven announced today the remastered reissue of his Two False Idols album “Some of you might know that in 2006 I released an album called Two False Idols under the name of Tunisia,” said Craven. “It started out life as a band project and went through a number of changes before being branded with a solo moniker.”

Two False Idols by Tunisia was a lavish production with an expansive sound and dense atmosphere. A version in 5.1 surround was released. “During the making of Great & Terrible Potions my sonic preferences changed,” adds Craven. “I wanted to revisit the first album to bring out all the parts more clearly in the mix. I also re-sequenced the track running order to improve the flow of the album.”

The new take on Two False Idols is now available under Ben Craven and remixed with the benefit of hindsight. You can listen to it in its entirety at Craven’s Bandcamp site (and even purchase it for as little as AUD $5).

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