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Masterfully Crafted Pop Meets Prog Rock

Mancunian Candidate – Mancunian Candidate (Pancake Repairs Music, 2017)

Mancunian Candidate is the new project of British-born, San Francisco-based multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Matthew Swindells. He was the drummer and vocalist with much-admired American progressive rock band Moth Vellum. Swindells was also lead vocalist for Matt Bissonette’s Raising Lazarus project and live tour drummer for celebrated English electronic music act Fila Brazillia.

The album Mancunian Candidate has a relatively short song format. The first half of the album sounds as if pop band The Police had gone progressive. The vocal style and part of the song structures are definitely closer to pop, but the arrangements and instrumental sections are totally different. In those parts, Mancunian Candidate delivers highly-skilled, masterfully crafted and climactic symphonic progressive rock, inspired by the great masters like Genesis and Yes.

One of the highlights of the album is track 5, “AnikusDominuscrappedonfactor” that has a progressive rock-era Yes flavor with notable drumming, keyboards, bass and guitar.

Another high point is “Circle lies Unbroken,” where Mancunian Candidate opens with a fabulous Mahavishnu Orchestra-style intro. It’s great to hear jazz-rock fusion added to the mix. Overall, one of the most “progressive” pieces in the album.

Other highlights include “The Air Has Changed” and the climactic “Fanfare for the Dammed,” where Matthew Swindells uses vocals that lean heavily towards progressive rock instead of pop. There is even a fabulous church organ section that recalls Rick Wakeman’s masterful work.

The last song is another goodie. It’s a progressive rock reprise of “Garden Party” with wonderful mellotron and an outstanding guitar solo.

 

 

The remarkable lineup includes Matthew Swindells on drums, vocals, keyboards and acoustic guitars; Matthew Charles Heulitt on electric guitar; Johnny Heyes on guitar; Andy Shepley on bass; Neil Fairclough on bass; Ollie Collins on bass; Jon Evans on bass; Matt Bissonette on bass; and Jasper Wilkisnson on mandolin.

Mancunian Candidate is an impressive recording that straddles pop and progressive rock and I look forward to listening to more of the progressive side of Matthew Swindells.

 

The album is available from MancunianCandidateMusic.com.

Electrifying Ethnomission

Tohpati Ethnomission – Mata Hati (MoonJune, 2017)

Tohpati Ethnomission is one of the most original and exciting progressive music projects coming of Indonesia. The group is led by guitarist and composer Tohpati.

Mata Hati brings together Indonesian traditional music, first class jazz-rock fusion and elements of progressive rock. Can’t get better than that.

In addition to the thrilling original sounds, Tohpati Ethnomission also features highly-skilled instrumentalists who play some of the finest jazz-rock fusion you’ll find in the current scene.

The lineup includes Tohpati on guitars; Indo Hardjodikoro on bass; Diki Suwarjiki on suling bamboo flute and tarompet (Indonesian shawm); Endang Ramdan on kendang percussion; and Demas Narawangsa on drums. The Czech Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michaela Ruzickova, guests on one track.

Mata Hati is undoubtedly one of the finest progressive music releases of the year.

Buy Mata Hati

Impeccable Cast

Cast – Power and Outcome (Progressive Promotion Records, 2017)

Mexican progressive symphonic rock band Cast, one of the finest progressive rock acts from Latin America is back with “Power and Outcome”. The band led by keyboardist and composer Alfonso Vidales features an international roster of virtuoso musicians who deliver impressive solos and prog-rock orchestrations.

In addition to Vidales’ magnificent keyboard work, Cast’s sound is characterized by the violin solos of Italian musician Roberto Izzo and Chilean guitar wizard Claudio Cordero who shreds masterfully.

On the vocal side, Cast uses English-language lyrics inspired by British bands. The vocals are beautifully-crafted with call and response techniques, overdubs and dramatic effects. Nevertheless, most of the album is instrumental.

Stylistically, the band is influenced by top tier British bands and also by Italian progressive rock masters.

The lineup includes Alfonso Vidales on keyboards; Claudio Cordero on guitar; Roberto Izzo on violin; Antonio Bringas on drums and percussion; Bobby Vidales on lead and background vocals; Lupita Acuña on vocals; Carlos Humarán on bass, Taurus pedals and background vocals.

Power and Outcome is an impeccable example of progressive rock craftsmanship featuring stellar instrumental and vocal work.

Buy Power and Outcome

Jazz-Rock Guitar Virtuoso and Innovator Allan Holdsworth Dies at 70

British guitarist and composer Allan Holdsworth passed away yesterday, April 16, 2017. He was 70 years old. Holdsworth was one of the finest guitarists in the jazz and rock fields, who developed a unique style and technique. His chords were admired and imitated by many.

Allan Holdsworth was born August 6, 1946 in Bradford, England. Allan Holdsworth played in some of the best progressive rock and jazz-rock bands of the 1970s: Tempest, Soft Machine, The New Tony Williams Lifetime,Nucleus, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Jean-Luc Ponty band and progressive rock supergroup UK.

 

 

Later, Allan Holdsworth released a series of solo albums and collaborations with leading jazz and fusion musicians such as Stanley Clarke and Chad Wackerman. In addition to the electric guitar he used and recorded with a new device called SynthAxe.

“There is no greater measure of a life well lived than the amount of people he had impacted, and by that measure the artist Allan Holdsworth lived a very good life. This man took a plank of wood, a few strings, and some wires and transformed people’s lives in a way that few others have. The ultimate genius of the rarest kind. One of THE greatest musicians ever lived. So much history with Allan,” said producer Leonardo Pavkovic of MoonJune Music, who worked with Holdsworth 2001-2016.

 

 

 

Allan Holdsworth is survived by his daughters Emily and Louise, his son Sam, and his granddaughter Rori.

Progressive World Music for Troubled Times

Steve Hackett – The Night Siren (InsideOut Music, 2017)

Thanks to his Genesis Revisited progressive rock recordings and tours, guitar virtuoso (and former Genesis guitarist) Steve Hackett is enjoying some of his most productive years. He has recorded albums where he explores various genres with total ease and skill. On The Night Siren he fuses his signature guitar style with a mix of classic rock, progressive rock, folk-rock, world music and various other influences, bringing attention to international turmoil.

Speaking about this recording, Steve Hackett has indicated that he’s always had an interest in multicultural diversity within music. Hackett’s curiosity about other cultures was evident in his early recordings, where he incorporated East Asian, Celtic, and other influences.

On The Night Siren Steve Hackett will take you on a constant unexpected musical ride. Songs that begin pastoral will conclude with knockout guitar solos. Heavy drums similar to Led Zeppelin’s Kashmir and Middle Eastern melodies transform into magnificent prog rock sections. There is also flamenco, Andean charango, fiery blues harmonica, Australian aboriginal didg, and more.

 

 

The album lineup includes Steve Hackett on electric and acoustic guitars, oud, charango, sitar guitar, harmonica, vocals; Mira Awad on vocals; Leslie-Miriam Bennett on keyboards; Gulli Briem on drums, cajon, percussion; Troy Donockley on Uilleann pipes; Kobi Farhi on vocals; Dick Driver on double bass; Benedict Fenner on keyboards and programming; Jo Hackett on vocals; John Hackett on flute; Roger King on keyboards and programming; Ferenc Kovács on trumpet; Sara Kovács on didgeridoo; Amanda Lehmann on vocals; Malik Mansurov on tar; Nad Sylvan on vocals; Gary O’Toole on drums; Christine Townsend on violin, viola; Rob Townsend on baritone and soprano sax, flute, flageolet, quena, duduk, bass clarinet; and Nick D’Virgilio on drums.

 

Buy The Night Siren

Progday 2017 Reveals First Acts

Progressive rock festival Progday announced the first artists scheduled to perform Saturday and Sunday, September 2nd and 3rd, at Storybook Farm in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The festival will feature acclaimed Peruvian band Flor De Loto, sensational American progressive band INFiNiEN and celebrated Swiss avant-garde ensemble Sonar.

 

 

 

More details at www.progday.net

Headline photo: Flor De Loto

Contemplative Ambient Soundscapes

Steve Roach – Soul Tones (Timeroom Editions, 2012)

Innovative electronic music artist Steve Roach has explored many sound realms, from deep ambient to tribal and Berlin-style electronics. On Soul Tones he generates mesmerizing ambient music atmospheres that evolve bit by bit, creating a calm timeless sense of floating in space.

The album contains only two compositions, the 45-minute long Soul ones and the 28-minute Resolved.

Soul Tones delivers exquisite ambient harmonies by one of the masters in the genre.

Buy the digital edition of Soul Tones.

The CD is available from steveroach.bandcamp.com/album/soul-tones

Omega, the Essential Rock Band from Hungary

Omega – Anthology 1968-1979 (Purple Pyramid Records, 2017)

This anthology is a great opportunity to discover the great Hungarian rock band Omega. Anthology 1968-1979 includes two discs. Disc 1 focuses on the 1960s. At that time, the band was still trying to find its way. Their songs were short and more pop oriented although there are glimpses of the good things to come in the future, in a few songs where you can hear psychedelic elements, blues rock, and mellotron sounds similar to the Moody Blues.

Disc 2 gets to the really good stuff. In the mid-1970s, Omega were deeply influenced by the space rock strain of progressive rock, especially bands like Pink Floyd and Germany’s Eloy. While the guitars and the heavily processed vocals are clearly on the space rock spectrum, the keyboards had a symphonic rock quality along with electronic music excursions.

Omega were very prolific in the 1970s and released albums in Hungarian as well as versions in English for the international market and even one album in German. If this compilation attracts your attention, you should look for the solidly progressive rock albums released by Omega. Begin with Time Robber and Skyrover.

Buy Anthology 1968-1979

Entrancing Southeast Asian Electronic Ambiance

Forrest Fang – Animism (Projekt Records, 2012)

Animism is a superb ambient album by American multi-instrumentalist and composer Forrest Fang. He’s well known for his brilliant mix of ambient electronic music with acoustic instruments from various parts of the globe.

I’ve seen Fang labeled as new age, but his music leans much more towards the progressive side than the usual easy listening new age.

Throughout Animism, Fang produces mesmerizing layers of electronics that revolve around the acoustic sounds of gamelans, various string instruments and flutes.

Forrest Fang’s music takes you into new sonic worlds resembling crystalline rain drops, trance-like metallic percussion, hypnotic drones that float across your room, and exotic Asian and Middle Eastern melodies played on Turkish baglama, flutes and other instruments.

On Animism , Forrest Fang plays synthesizers; electronics; acoustic and electric violins; Turkish baglama; Vietnamese dan bau; flute; Southeast Asian kendang (barrel drum); Turkish lavta; Southeast Asian kulintang (row of gongs); marxolin (small fretless guitar-zither); mandolin; Spanish bandurria; cane flute; and percussion.

Buy Animism

Martigan Pursues the Distant Monsters

Martigan – Distant Monsters (Progressive Promotion records PPRCD036, 2015)

The first two tracks of this album would lead you to believe that Martigan is strictly a prog metal band. Throughout “Theodor’s Walls”, and “Lion,” the band uses the tired chugga chugga of heavy metal. However, on “Lion” guitarist Björn Bisch finally delivers the goods, by playing a superb electric guitar solo.

On track 3, “Simplicius”, Martigan finally starts to show its true progressive rock side with expressive vocals inspired by Fish and other second generation prog rock singers and another great epic guitar solo.

“Complicius,” track 4, is even better, with outstanding vocals and creative drum work that progresses very nicely into an instrumental section where Björn Bisch’ guitar stands out once more.

The longest track on the album is “The Lake,” where you get a well balanced mix of vocals and remarkable instrumental work spearheaded by the guitar that takes you into an epic grand finale.

Track 6, “On Tiptoe,” has a dreamy and cinematic nature with notable vocal work, light percussion and plenty of symphonic keyboards.

“Fire on the pier” has echoes of Genesis and Pendragon, with more delectable guitar goodness.

The albums ends with an anthemic song titled “Take me or leave me.”

The lineup includes Kai Marckwordt on lead and backing vocals and guitar; Oliver Rebhan on keyboards and backing vocals; Alex Bisch on drums and backing vocals; Björn Bisch on guitars and ebow; and Mario Koch on bass and clarinet.

Buy Distant Monster in the Americas and rest of the world

Buy Distant Monsters in Europe