Vagalume is the debut album by Spanish progressive rock band Absente H. The group has been around for a few years, developing its concept of symphonic-progressive rock. Absente H is influenced by the classics of the 1970s like Pink Floyd, Yes, Genesis and Camel, and also by newer acts such as Flower Kings and Porcupine Tree.
Despite the previously mentioned influences, Absente H has developed its own sound which is based on epic pieces with engaging vocals, and musical interplay between the guitars, keyboards, flute and violin. If you like mellotron, you will find it used throughout the album. It’s hard to know if it’s a real mellotron or one of the emulators available, but the mesmerizing result is what counts.
The Spanish flavor of Absente H centers on the vocals which are in Spanish and sometimes reminds me of the great Argentine prog groups of the 1970s. David Pérez’s vocals make beautiful combinations with the background vocals of the two female singers. The lyrics cover a wide range of topics, ranging from environmental issues to movie tributes, mythology and timeless Spanish poetry by Rosalía De Castro.
The line-up on Vagalume includes David Pérez on vocals; Juan Pedro Miralles on keyboards; Jesús González on drums; Alfonso Pazos on bass; María José Izquierdo on flute & backing vocals; María Sánchez on violin & backing vocals; and Víctor García on guitars.
Vagalume is an impressive and immediately accessible debut recording by one of the most articulate progressive rock acts in Spain.
Spanish synthesist and guitarist Carlos Guirao died January 17th, 2012 of cancer. He was 57. Guirao was one of the pioneers of electronic music in Spain. Together with synthesist Michel Huygen and guitarist Albert Giménez, Guirao formed the best known Spanish electronic group, Neuronium.
The first Neuronium album was titled Quasar 2C361, (EMI-Harvest, 1977). Next came Vuelo Químico (chemical flight) released in 1978. It was inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s literary work and featured the legendary Nico (The Velvet Underground).
After Vuelo Químico, Albert Giménez left the group and Neuronium became a duo. In 1980 Neuronium released Digital Dream under its own indie label, Neuronium Records. Digital Dream featured guitarist Santi Picó as a guest.
Guirao continued his work with Neuronium, releasing The Visitor (1981) and Chromium Echoes (1982).
In 1982, Guirao left Neuronium. That same year, he released Revelation, a solo album that continued the Neuronium sound. Revelation featured Guirao on synthesizers and Jose Maria Ciria and Manolo Torres on drums.
In the mid-1980s, Guirao’s electronic music shifted from space music to techno. He founded a duo called Programa with José Antonio López Ibañez. Programa released Síntesis Digital (1983) and Acrópolis (1985).
Carlos Guirao exited Programa after Acrópolis. Although he didn’t officially release any recordings for several years, he never stopped making music. He worked as an art restorer and played guitar and keyboards with a group of friends in a rock band called Cherish Band. The band’s repertory included covers of Pink Floyd pieces.
Guirao released a new solo album of symphonic electronic music titled Symphony in 2010. Symphony featured Guirao on keyboards with J. Artigas on acoustic guitar, J. Durban on drums, and F. Montraveta on keyboards.
Other recent recordings include his collaboration with his former Programa bandmate Joseph Loibant (the new artistic name of José Antonio López Ibañez) titled “Alchemy” (At-Mooss Records), the double CD “Brumas” (Mists) inspired by the fresh air of deep forests in imaginary worlds, and “El vuelo de las almas miticas” (the flight of the mythical souls) composed in 2007 and arranged and orchestrated in 2011.
Carlos Guirao left several unreleased musical works. More information and photos with Klaus Schulze and Vangelis are available at: http://carlosguirao.blogspot.com
Symphonic-progressive rock band Glass Hammer is one of the leading acts in the genre in the United States. Glass Hammer formed in 1992 when multi-instrumentalists Steve Babb and Fred Schendel began to write and record Journey of the Dunadan, a concept album based on the story of the Ranger of the North, Aragorn, a fictional character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. To their surprise, the album sold several thousand units via the Internet, The QVC Shop-At-Home Network and phone orders, leaving Babb and Schendel convinced that the band was a project worth continuing.
Although many musicians have appeared on Glass Hammer albums over the years, Babb and Schendel have remained the core of the band. Both play a variety of instruments, but Babb mainly concentrates on bass guitar and keyboards while Schendel plays keyboards, various guitars and drums. Their latest album is Cor Cordium. Co-founders Steve Babb and Fred Schendel discuss their music with Progressive Rock Central.
Cor Cordium seems to have a connection with your previous album If. Is this a second part?
Fred: Well, it’s stylistically related, for sure but it’s not consciously a continuation of an exact same sound.
Steve: We’ve expanded on the strengths of the new band members that came along for “If”. But there was no conscious effort to re-create or surpass anything we did on “If”. We just wanted to make another good album; and I think we’ve done that. There are similarities, but that’s as far as it goes.
How has Glass Hammer’s music evolved throughout the years?
Fred: It’s funny because we’re always interested in making music that doesn’t sound exactly like the music we’ve already made, and even though some might think that’s what the genre is all about we get in real trouble sometimes because of it. We’ve been trying to mix trying new things, i.e. going a little harder with Culture Of Ascent or psychedelic with Three Cheers, with refining what we do as a classic sounding symph band. We try and identify our strengths and work with them. I think we’ve learned enough about what this current version of the band does well with these two releases that the next will really be something amazing.
How does the composition process work?
Fred: Generally, I think, we just sit down and see what kind of ideas and themes come to us. Then it’s all about arranging and extending those ideas, and seeing how one thing can logically lead to something else. Composing is 50% arranging, if not more.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
Fred: Oh, I think it filters in from everywhere. Of course, all the music you grow up listening to, but I think anything that you hear might have ideas in it that lead you somewhere. I honestly don’t know sometimes. It’s safe to say that a lot of it is classical music and the prog bands of the 70’s. But I personally listen to funk, pop, punk and all kinds of stuff.
Steve: Movies, books, art, life experience – all that plays a part for me. I certainly remain inspired by my favorite bands from the seventies, but also a lot of non-prog bands that are new to the scene. I’m a Christian too …. a lot of inspiration comes from my faith. And a lot from my wife and son too!
Making a living from music is not easy, are you full time musicians?
Fred: We have a recording studio, so we’re full time producers of music and sound-related endeavors even if we’re not always acting as musicians.
Steve: Making a living from anything isn’t easy anymore. Any one who is working and making money is struggling day by day to do so. But I guess musicians who can make a living, any living at all, have nothing to complain about. Music production pays the bills for us, no one is starving. We’re fortunate!
Are you all based in the Chattanooga area?
Fred: Right now the whole band is indeed local, apart from Jon Davison who lives in California. Which is a bummer for us but that’s just how it is! We’re trying to find a drummer from here that can join us full time.
Nashville is known for country music and Memphis for blues, is there something about Chattanooga that set the ground for one of the best progressive rock bands in North America?
Fred: The music scene here is dismal. It’s just a coincidence we lived here and took initiative to get our music recorded and out into the world. Before 1993 that would have been next to impossible living somewhere like Chattanooga. But we started around the time when the world-wide web became a viable marketing tool and pro-grade recording equipment became affordable.
Steve: The eastern-Tennessee region has a number of prog bands to its credit. Salem Hill, Neal Morse, Glass Hammer (of course), and once upon a time there was a band called Somnambulist who Fred and I got to produce. But it’s coincidence. The general populace is unaware that bands like GH exist here.
Did your success stimulate the progressive rock scene in Chattanooga?
Steve: We’re better known in Chattanooga as producers. And as such I think we’ve had a positive impact on a number of artists. But very few Glass Hammer fans hail from our home town. There really isn’t a prog-rock scene here, and we certainly haven’t put any energy into creating one.
Your band follows the great progressive rock tradition of the 1970s, with epic songs and fantasy artwork. How important are the other art components, aside from music?
Fred: I think it’s very important. We, as people, really contribute nothing as far as any kind of image. It has to come from art. That’s the visual side of what we do. We love having good art as a compliment to the music.
The keyboards you use like mellotron and organ are some of the most cherished by progressive music fans. What keyboards [models] do you use? Where and how did you get them?
Fred: Well, we do own a real Hammond organ (a CV with a Leslie 147) and a real Minimoog and some other old analog synths, but they are next to impossible to keep working. I’ve had the Minimoog since 1979; my parents, bless them, got it for me when I was 15. We use a blend of the real ones when they work and various software emulations. I know enough about how things should sound I can fool most of the people most of the time. I was an endorser of Nord keyboards for a while and I can’t recommend them highly enough. The Nord Electro and Nord Lead synths are wonderful.
Steve: I’ve had a Yamaha CS-5 synth since 1980. I still pull it out and use on Glass Hammer albums now and then. It’s getting a little noisy, but it has a charm I can’t find in other keyboards or soft-synths.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
Fred: Well, at this jaded point in life I don’t know if I have a fantasy along those lines any more. Jon Anderson was at the top of the list and we got to do that. I would have to say if I had a chance to meet Thijs Van Leer and collaborate, with him on keys or flute, that would be amazing. There are hundreds of musicians out there that getting to work with would be a huge honor. But, I don’t feel particularly motivated to seek them out.
Steve: I’d love to be Todd Rundgren’s bassist for at least one project. Working with Bowie would be cool too. I’m actually happy and, I think, extremely lucky to collaborate with Fred, Jon and Alan; along with many of the former Glass Hammer members. GH is my ‘dream band’. I’m totally serious about that!
What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?
Steve: I’ve learned a lot of lessons through the years, but the first big lesson was simply this: Do the music that makes you the happiest without any expectation of assistance from the ‘music industry’. Start a project and see it through. I guess that’s really two lessons, but they kind of go together for me. A lot of musicians seem to dream big but never complete anything. And they seem to think that some record company mogul is going to drop out of the sky with a big check and a contract. It doesn’t work that way. Be prepared to go it alone!
Fred: For me, once I learned to let go of the performing musician fantasy and think about becoming a producer who sits behind the board it all worked out. Now I get to do Glass Hammer and I don’t have to work at a computer store.
Do you have any tours planned?
Fred: No, but we are actively searching for some venues to get this version of the band out and playing!
Are you working on new projects?
Fred: We are putting a song together for a new Colossus project with an H. P. Lovecraft theme and it’s going to be fantastic. And we’re thinking towards a new album, and our initial idea is to make it VERY huge.
Steve: That’s it. I’m hoping we’ll start writing soon. We’re talking a lot about what the new album should be or could be. Now it’s time to get to work!
Iconic Russian band Auktyon will be releasing its new album Top on February 14th with three shows in New York. Auktyon draws its inspiration from such remote sources as ska, reggae, avant-garde jazz, ethnic music of North Africa and Middle East, beat- and pop-music of the 1960s.
The band’s keen sense for improvisation led them to Top (Geometriya). The album draws together the eerie folklore (“Shiski,” “Polden/Noon”), edgy urbanity (“Mimo,” “Yula/Top”), and exuberant word play (“Homba).
The band’s unflagging energy will be in full force February 11 2012 for a U.S. release party at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge and at Joe’s Pub on February 18. The band will be joined by long-time American collaborators, keyboardist John Medeski and alt-guitarist Marc Ribot, for a special freewheeling show on February 16. Medeski and Ribot first leaped into Auktyon’s whirling songs several years ago, recording tracks for 2007’s Girls Sing, and playing shows together from Ukraine to downtown New York.
The line-up includes Leonid Fyodorov on vocals, guitar, percussion; Oleg Garkusha on dance, declamation, vocals; Viktor Bondarik on bass; Dmitry Ozersky on keyboards, percussion, trumpet; Nikolay Rubanov on saxophones, bass-clarinet, jaleika; Boris Shaveinikov on drums, percussion; Pavel Litvinov on percussion; Mikhail Kolovsky on tuba, trumpet; and Mikhail Rappoport – sound engineer.
“We have never had the goal to do something special, or to get something particular across to people,” muses Auktyon dancer/poet Oleg Garkusha. “We do what we like, and we never do what we don’t want to do. We just play.”
Full Tour Schedule
02/11/2012, Sat New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge 158 Bleecker Street Tickets: $35 adv./$45 day of show, Doors Open: 7:00 pm, Show: 8:00 pm Ages 18+ Phone: 212.505.FISH.
02/16/2012, Thu New York, NY Le Poisson Rouge 158 Bleecker Street Doors Open: 10:00 pm, Show: 10:30 pm Featuring John Medeski & Marc Ribot. Ages 18+ Ph: 212.505.FISH
02/18/2012, Sat New York, NY Joe’s Pub 425 Lafayette Street Ph: 212.967.7555
February 6th, 2012 update: Due to a medical emergency, Auktyon has cancelled their upcoming New York City gigs
Journey of One is a two CD set which provides a very accurate impression of the dreamtime electronic music synthesist Steve Roach was making in the 1990s. This was the period when Roach traveled throughout the globe, collaborating with various international artists, including Robert Rich, Jorge Reyes, Suso Saiz, Vidna Obmana, Michael Stearns and Ron Sunsinger.
At the time, Roach’s music incorporated the impressions of the vast landscapes of Australia and southern Arizona and other exotic parts of the world. On Journey of One, Steve Roach combines his signature ambient music with Australian aboriginal tribal sounds through the use of the didjeridu (also known as yidaki and didjeridoo) which he learned how to play from Australian masters. Other acoustic instruments include clay water pots, butterfly cocoons, seed pod shakers, Australian clapsticks, and ocarinas.
This two CD live set also mixes slow tempo morphing electronic music with the sounds of nature. Steve Roach usually carried a portable recorder to capture interesting sounds. I remember seeing Steve in Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain) early in the morning, recording the surf. On Journey of One he skillfully weaves in the natural sounds of birds and insects into his electronic music.
Journey of One parts 1 and 2 were recorded in an intimate setting in Sacramento, California in 1996. Steve Roach decided to release it exactly as it was performed, without studio edits.
“All of my music is audiobiographical in many ways,” says Roach. “It comes from life, from higher arcing desires and dreams joined by the events and moments found in the day-to-day experience of being alive. Through it all, Journey of One is a living record of my time on the creative path that started many years ago. These releases are sign posts at points along the way, the journey of one man rapt in sound.”
Journey of One is a mesmerizing journey of ambient tribal music by one of the great electronic music explorers of our time.
Electronic music fans can vote for their favorite German and international electronic music artists at the Schallwelle Award website.
For the fourth time, the German electronic scene orchestrates the Schallwelle awards, where the best national and international albums and artists will be honored for their particular achievements in 2011. The event takes place on March 10, 2012 at a well known location: the Planetarium of Bochum. And the lifetime achievement award for 2011 goes to and will be personally received by the special award winner.
The jury of seven will also elect the Newcomer of 2011. Votings for best albums and best artists will be combined from the jury’s votes and the audience votes at 50% each. Voting is still open until January 31st 2012, online at the Schallwelle website, where each fan and lover of this genre can choose his or her favorite for 2011.
Three concerts accompany the event, this time supported by the new impressive technology of the planetarium.
– Frank van Bogaert (Belgium)
– Erik Wøllo (Norway)
– Michel Huygen – Neuronium (Spain/Belgium)
The hosts are Sylvia Sommerfeld and Stefan Erbe, who will welcome all visitors to the exclusive and atmospheric event with many renowned national and international guests from the electronic music scene.
Tickets are available for order via the website of the Planetarium of Bochum or via NRW ticket for 25 Euros plus booking fees (concessions for members of Schallwende e.V.: 22 Euros). It is recommended to book early, as only a limited number of tickets are available.
Amsterdam-based French multi-instrumentalist Franck Carducci is an emerging talent in the progressive rock scene. His solo album Oddity brings a fresh new voice, with dreamlike characters inspired by English literature and Greek mythology. Carducci’s sound is inspired by the British prog masters of the 1970s and 1980s.
The first piece on the album is an engaging 14+ minute epic titled ‘Achilles,’ which reveals a vocal and guitar style that is remarkably familiar, taking you to early Pendragon (one of the leading British neoprog bands of the 1980s). The delightful acoustic guitar, keyboards and flute melodies will attract Genesis fans.
‘The Quin’ is another lengthy melodic piece where Carducci demonstrates his talent as a vocalist with Pendragonesque vocals, mesmerizing keyboards and a brilliant mix or electric and acoustic guitars and even an unexpected Australian didjeridu.
On ‘The Eyes of Age’ Carducci treats the listener with charming folk-rock, featuring mandolins and fiddle.
‘Alice’s Eerie Dream’ is a long blues rock piece with excellent guitar work, where Carducci shows his licks in Jeff Healy fashion. As much as I like the piece and blues rock, I’m not sure what it’s doing in a progressive rock album.
‘The Last Oddity’ is a beautiful track with several types of keyboards, including the ever popular mellotron. Carducci mixes regular vocals with electronic processed vocals described as ‘ground control voices.’
Franck Carducci plays bass, piano, guitars, drums, and mellotron on the album, accompanied by an excellent cast of musicians, including John Hackett on flute; Phildas Bhakta on drums; Richard Vecchi on keyboards and guitar; Florence Marien on vocals; Michael Strobel on guitar; Niko Leroy on Hammond, synths; Larry Crockett on drums; Marianne Delphin on vocals; Christophe Obadia on guitar and didgeridoo; Vivika Sapori-Sudemäe on violin; Yanne Matis on vocals; Gilles Carducci on mandolin; and Fred Boisson on drums.
The album includes two bonus pieces, Carducci’s version of the Genesis classic ‘The Carpet Crawlers’ featuring violin; and a radio edit of the blues rocker ‘Alice’s Eerie Dream.’
The cover artwork does not do justice to the music.
Oddity is an outstanding album by one of the new talents in the symphonic progressive rock style.
Jon Anderson, the legendary progressive rock vocalist that fronted Yes for many years is back with numerous projects. The most interesting by far is Open, a long musical suite with four movements produced by Jon and Jane Anderson that has brought back the wondrous sounds that Anderson is known for. Jon Anderson composed the music and wrote the lyrics. Stefan Podell made the orchestration and additional music.
You made many progressive rock fans very happy with Open. When did you start working on this project?
About a year ago…I started with an acoustic guitar, put down a framework, and then Stephan Podell did a wonderful orchestral arrangement…We talked about how best to make ‘Yes fans’ enjoy the journey, I think that was my motivation…
I’ll play anything, not great, but just enough to make it work…I love piano, and guitar mostly.
Who else participated in the Open recording?
Jane Luttenberger Anderson on angel Vocals; Stefan Podell on music and orchestration, 12 string guitar, classical guitar and bass; Zach Tenorio Miller on piano; Zach Page on electric guitar; Alexandra Cutler-Fetkewicz with Jon Fink and Susan Lerner on strings; Kevin Shima on acoustic guitar and vocals; Brian Hobart on Percussion; Stephan Junca on drums and African Percussion; Charles Scott on drum kit; Cal Poly A Cappella group (Robert Foster, Ian O’Rourke, Madelyn Frey,Jacob Stringfellow, Aaron Wolfe, and Amy Stevens); and additional backing vocals by Billy James.
The complexity of Open reminded me of your legendary solo album Olias of Sunhillow. Will there be more music in this direction?
I’m just working on the next ‘opus’…called ‘Ever’
You’ve had recent solo tours, including one with your with your old friend and former Yes colleague Rick Wakeman. How did that work out?
Rick is fun to work with, he’s playing better than ever, and the songs we do are great to sing. Audiences love the banter between us,…and the new songs really have a different energy.
How is Rick doing health wise?
He’s really very well.
Will you be recording more with Rick Wakeman?
I hope this next few weeks we will work together.
Argentine Stick virtuoso Guillermo Cides mentioned recently that he will be working with you and Australian Truey Marks on a new project in 2012. Can you share some details about that?
Ask him to contact me please…
How do you find the time to play in so many projects?
It’s that time of my life, after nearly dieing in 2008, I realized I should try and finish my work…well, there’s more than I would believe…so I just keep working on the music…it helps everything…
You are a singer and also a songwriter. How do you work as a composer?
I usually sing with guitar, record everything I do, almost everyday a new song comes…it’s wonderful.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
The divine ‘love’ that surrounds us.
I’d like to take you back to the early 1970s. Yes made albums that are considered progressive rock masterpieces. I’m talking about Fragile, Close to the Edge, Tales from Topographic Oceans and Relayer. What was happening at that time that led you and your band mates to compose such incredible music?
I was driven to try new music, we were being told to write ‘hit songs’…I just felt it would be a waste of the talent within the band, so I chose to escape, and help create new music…it is wonderful to look back at those times; we were in perfect ‘harmony’ with each other.
If you could gather any musicians or musical groups to collaborate with whom would that be?
I would start with Tony Levin, Billy Cobham, etc etc…
In this age of economic turmoil and social unrest, do you have a message you’d wish to impart through your music?
Change is good…and Change we must…
What music genres, groups or CDs are you currently listening to?
We interviewed the Senegalese singer Baaba Maal and asked what song was he completely addicted to – the one song that he will sing along with every time – and he told us his song was “One Love” by Bob Marley. What is your one song?
‘I will fix you’…and a million others…
What do you like to do during your free time?
Paint, cook, watch Soccer and ‘American Football..walk with my Janee.
What country would you like to visit?
China, I’ve been there 3 times, amazing culture……..Africa…India.
Which is your favorite city?
What was the first big lesson you learned about the music business?
This week we present a the video Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble by Kotebel, a renowned Madrid-based progressive rock band. This is a preview of their upcoming new CD titled ‘Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble.’
Kotebel has released 5 albums since 2000, including the critically acclaimed ‘Omphalos.’ “The main body of the [[Concerto for Piano and Electric Ensemble]] album is formed by the four movements that comprise the ‘Concerto for Piano‘,” says keyboardist and founding member Carlos Plaza Vegas. “It is pure music; no reference to extra-musical elements. However, the other four pieces on the album are based on conceptual elements.”
The band was formed in 2000 as an eclectic project, immersed in the mainstream of progressive “art” music. Kotebel’s music is an elaborate, yet accessible blend of avant-garde symphonic rock, with a wide range of influences from classical music to jazz to world music.
Kotebel’s actual line-up includes Carlos Franco Vivas on drums and percussion; César Garcia Forero on guitars; Jaime Pascual Summers on bass; Adriana Nathalie Plaza Engelke on keyboards; and Carlos G. Plaza Vegas on keyboards.
The current line-up of progressive rock band Yes has released a new box set with a collection of live pieces. “In The Present – Live From Lyon” contains live recordings made in Lyon, France on December 1st 2009. It includes many of Yes’ classics from their peak progressive rock era as well as newer pieces.
In addition to the two live audio CDS, the box set includes a 55 minute DVD with interesting excerpts from the live performance, candid interviews and behind the scenes footage.
The line-up on this collection includes Benoit David on vocals (he replaced Jon Anderson while Anderson was ill), maestro Steve Howe on guitar, Chris Squire on bass, Alan White on drums, and Oliver Wakeman on keyboards.
1. Siberian Khatru
2. I’ve Seen All Good People
3. Tempus Fugit
5. Astral Traveller
6. Yours Is No Disgrace
See all 8 tracks on this disc
1. Owner Of A Lonely Heart
2. South Side Of The Sky
3. Machine Messiah
4. Heart Of The Sunrise
6. Starship Trooper
1. Interviews (DVD)
2. Excerpts From The Live Show (DVD)
3. Roundabout (DVD)
4. Machine Messiah (DVD)
Progressive rock, jazz-rock fusion, ambient electronic music and beyond