Profound Psychedelic Electronic Musical Journey into the Core of the Mekong Delta

Kelly David – Meditation in Green (Spotted Peccary, 2019)

Electronic music artist and sound designer Kelly David has released Meditation in Green for the great Spotted Peccary label. Throughout the album, David takes the listener into a fantastic world of mystery and spellbinding ethno-ambient electronics and a multitude of sounds.

Kelly David’s inspiration came from Vietnam’s Mekong Delta and features samples of traditional Vietnamese musical instruments provided by Vu Nhat Tan.

Kelly David – Meditation in Green

Despite the titles of the songs, this is not easy listening melodic meditation music. Instead, it is a wonderful voyage though the best of ambient electronic music, with a world music edge.

Kelly David plays analog and digital synthesizers, large format analog modular synthesizers, samplers, loopers, wind synthesizer, field recordings, gongs, bells and several percussion instruments. Guests include Drew Redfield on electric guitar; Kailani Jurasek on temple bell; and field recordings from Kent Antognini and Eckart Bühler.

Buy Meditation in Green

Masterful Progressive Sound Design from Emmett Elvin

Emmett Elvin – The End of Music (Bad Elephant Music, 2019)

British multi-instrumentalist, composer and sound designer Emmett Elvin has released an outstanding progressive rock album titled The End of Music. Emmett Elvin’s style is hard to categorize. He interweaves the best of progressive music: masterful symphonic progressive rock, wondrous cinematic structures, cutting edge electronica, post rock, fascinating sound effects, exquisite acoustic guitar pieces and mesmerizing loop creations.

Having of late been sorely beleaguered by testy whimbrels I decided the hour was ripe to once again beseech the assistance of that sagest of metaphysical bards, Magnus Opium,” says Emmet. “His prescription was simple enough: conjure an entirely fresh, lapis-hued songbook from the trembling, indifferent maw of the Abyss to be used as a calmative for the hearts of even the most truculent waders. ‘But what title should I bestow on this sonic grimoire?’ I asked of him. Poor timing on my part, as his mouth was at that moment stuffed with coconut mushrooms. I’m reasonably certain he said: The End of Music. Dallying long enough to make sure would likely have lost me everything. And these 13 songs from the Abyss were too hard-won to surrender.

Emmett Elvin is best known as the keyboardist for Knifeworld, Guapo and and Chrome Hoof. On The End of Music he plays acoustic and electric 6 & 12 string guitars, bass, acoustic piano, Rhodes, Nord synth, casserole, biscuit tin, percussion, recorders, vocals.

Emmett Elvin – The End of Music

The band includes Alex Thomas (Chrome Hoof, Squarepusher, Badly Drawn Boy) on drums and percussion; and Sarah Anderson on violin and viola. Additional musicians: Eden Duke on stacked harmony vocals on ‘Everything Falls Away’ and ‘Everything Falls Away (reprise)’; and Olga Lisikova on vocals on ‘No Wonder.’

Buy The End of Music

The Insistent Fusion Energy of Antoine Fafard

Antoine Fafard – Borromean Odyssey (Timeless Momentum, 2019)

Canadian bassist, guitarist and composer Antoine Fafard is back with his sixth album, Borromean Odyssey. Fafard makes some of the finest progressive jazz-rock fusion at the present time. A constant in all his albums is the presence of superb instrumentalists. This time, Fafard invited British musician Gary Husband and American rock and jazz drummer Todd Sucherman.

Antoine Fafard – Borromean Odyssey

On Borromean Odyssey, Fafard treats the listener to memorable bass solos. The electric guitar work is equally outstanding, inspired by Alan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin as well. Fafard switches from high energy virtuosic fusion to laid back, ambient short passages titled Borromean Odyssey I-V that change the mood and relax the listener, before returning with another outburst of stunning electric energy.

Gary Husband is a multifaceted artist. Sometimes he plays the drums and on other occasions, he appears as a keyboardist. Although Husband released an album recently as a pianist, on Borromean Odyssey he really stands out as a master of the synthesizer and electric piano.  Borromean Odyssey contains a remarkable set of synth solos that demonstrate that Husband is one of the finest electronic keyboard players in the current progressive music field.

Todd Sucherman has played with American melodic pop-rock band Styx for two decades. On Borromean Odyssey, Sucherman delivers a spectacular performance of creative drumming.

Fafard has also released a boxed set titled Hexalogy 2011-2019 that contains six albums and a 100-page booklet.

Buy Borromean Odyssey

Human Ottoman – “Rampage”

Human Ottoman – Rampage

Well, I went to see the band Moon Letters, that I have reviewed here on this website, at the Parliament Tavern, in West Seattle, on Friday, August 16th, 2019. More on that concert soon. I was warned by Moon Letters that Human Ottoman, the band opening the show, was going to be something special. And they were absolutely correct.

Human Ottoman describes themselves as a “power quartet of electric vibraphone, cello, bass, and drums, from Portland Oregon”. The band is made up of Susan Lucia, on drums; Grayson Fiske, on vibraphone; Julian Kosanovic, on cello; and David Robert Burrows, on bass. Contributing their talent on Rampage, are: Mathew Cartmill, cello solo; Dusty Carlson, bass; and Skip VanKuske, on cello.

Susan Lucia and Grayson Fiske started the project in 2013. Human Ottoman brings “polyrhythmic rock to the masses”. Their sound is something west of Frank Zappa. Their first album, Power Baby, was independently released in 2014 and received an Independent Music Award in the “Instrumental” category”. Their second full-length record, Farang, was released in 2015. Rampage is their third album, and the band is on tour throughout America supporting it.

Ok, disclaimer: I have never been a fan of Frank Zappa. But after hearing Human Ottoman live, I was an instant fan. Unlike Zappa, with Human Ottoman I hear a melody and what I would consider music. I absolutely agree with the tagline “polyrhythmic rock”.

So, how is this third album? Well let me start off by saying that these artists absolutely have mastered their instruments. Every song is unique and completely enthralling. How they actually write this material and keep it all together and on cue is a masterpiece in itself. When you watch them set up, it is quiet an ordeal, especially the vibraphone on wheels. Lucia’s drumming is some of the best I’ve seen in years. The unique sounds she creates not only with drums, but all of the percussion sounds she has at her fingertips are astonishing.

Likewise, Grayson Fiske, on vibraphone is something you just have to see and hear to believe. He is also entertaining as a comedian and in-between song, audience discussion leader. Fiske does with vibraphone what Hendrix did with the guitar. It is so unique and wonderful it will mesmerize you.

Julian Kosanovic, on cello, plays the instrument in a way you again, must see to believe. Playing it laying down, sideways, between the legs, and on its side creates some unique sounds I don’t think I’ve heard before on a cello.

David Robert Burrows, on bass, is the most standard of all the artists. But you definitely can hear his power bass chords throughout this album.

Each of the songs Rampage, are short, but packed full of dynamic rhythms and innovative music. Grayson Fiske reminds me of David Byrne of the Talking Heads, more than Frank Zappa. He sounds a little like Byrne, as the lead singer, but his voice defies comparison.

The music is weird and wonderful, and Portland fans would not allow it to be any different. Every track on this album will command your attention, no matter how short its duration.

Some of my favorites are “Real Eyes”, with Fiske’s wonderful innovations on vibraphone, the piercing cello solo of Cartmill, and the heavy bass of Burrows.

“Maraca Who”, with Lucia’s cool drum sequences and I think vocal is another fav.

“Drug Anthem”, is an ethereal wonderland.

“Doe Toe” is a drum show for Lucia, but the rest of the band supports her well with wicked sound.

“Praha” slips by too fast, it is wonderful.

“100k Lazer Cats” is amazing with that swishing sound Lucia makes with what was a bow, pulled ever so slowly for maximum effect The vibraphone sounds and cello are simply otherworldly. Probably my favorite track. It was amazing live!

“Dream” has more of Lucia’s beautiful voice set to dreamy sounds. My second favorite song on the album.

“Yesterday”, the closer was also amazing live, but the studio version is still captivating.

If you are looking for something completely different, this is your Golden Ticket. The songs are short and completely accessible. Get this album, and like me, start exploring their back catalog.


Stephen Shoup produced all of the album photography.
Sam Gerhke produced all of the band pictures used in this review.

This band has not stopped touring since that hot August night we saw them in West Seattle. That says they are a major draw and their music is being heard throughout the country. They are in heavy demand…because they make unique, innovative and wonderful music.

Track List

  1. Real Eyes – 3:43
  2. Maraca Who – 4:16
  3. Basement 5 – 1:08
  4. Swanktown – 3:14
  5. Drug Anthem – 4:12
  6. Doe Toe – 3:15
  7. Praha – 0:57
  8. 100k Lazer Cats – 4:16
  9. Construction – 0:58
  10. Dream – 3:03
  11. Yesterday – 4:23

https://www.humanottoman.com/

https://humanottoman.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/HumanOttoman/

Edenbridge – “Dynamind”

Edenbridge – Dynamind

Anyone who knows me, knows I like Edenbridge. I thought they reached their peak with The Bonding. There were so many great stories and lyrics, as well as powerful orchestration on the album. The Great Momentum was a good album; however, it was not up to the caliber of The Bonding. So, it was with hope that I requested and received their new album Dynamind

Although it does not have the power of the lyrics and orchestration of The Bonding, it does have something that The Great Momentum was missing. Innovative keyboards, mixed well with blazing guitar, and a plethora of some added instruments and sounds.

Edenbridge has always reflected the effervescent spirit of their Austrian heritage in their music. That spirit is so well summed up in the classic movie of defiance and love of country, culture, in The Sound of Music.

“The Memory Hunter”, opens Dynamind, like many an Edenbridge song. Full of power drums hammering, bass supporting and those two lead electric guitars roaming like wolves on the hunt. Speed rock n roll, set to a heavy beat. Sabine sounds great as she sings, “How will you measure your life? Without a past. A trail of devastation, so dark and vast”. “Dreams don’t fly no more”. Lanvall has a cool mysterious keyboard sound integrated within the guitar roar, like a rolling synthesizer that gives this track some magic.

When I first saw the track titled, “Live and Let Go”, I thought this might have an ironic spin on the famous James Bond classic, Live and Let Die. (The band has covered Bond songs in the past). Instead, it is another traditional Edenbridge song. What really makes this band so great for me is Sabine’s singing. No other female vocalist quiet compares to her power, mixed well with emotion, and without the screaming that often accompanies female metal singers. And on “Live and Let Go”, she shines well above the music. She has a strong opening line, reminding me of The Bonding, “Here I stand”, and then she carries it on so well after, singing, “Live and let go. There’s a light in the dark to endeavor. Free to fly in a never-ending sky”. Full of enthusiasm and drive.


“Where the Oceans Collide”, opens like most Edenbridge rockers, full of spark and racing electric guitars, supported well with bass and thundering drums. What makes it different is Lanvall’s infusion of some cool keyboard sounds. Edenbridge albums are always full of intricate and innovative guitar sounds, but the keyboard extras he has added on this album stand out to me. Sabine sings some great lyrics, “This is not a dream. This is not a test. Colors clashing like a wave in crest. It’s the line of sight, where oceans collide”.

 “The Other Side”, has a wonderful mix of stringed instruments adding to the soundscape that the band creates. This one almost sounds like an Irish/Scottish jig at times; it is a rousing march full of imagination. Hammered Dulcimer and mandolin makes this one of the best and most original tracks on the album. Sabine sings wonderful lyrics, “The eternal quest for the better. Be different than you’re meant to be. Every march into a battle has the core inside the men. Your mind will feed the universe. The inner voice shall guide”.


“All Our Yesterdays”, is full of all of that orchestration I miss from The Bonding. Sabine sings glorious lyrics with emotion, “The coming of age. Where ever we go. Whatever we will know. The dust of a thousand ways. In all our yesterdays”. Another of my favorite tracks.


On “The Edge of Your World”, Lanvall has some more of those innovative cool keys and orchestration at the track’s opening. Sabine sings, “Where you are, is how you see. The edge of your world is a mystery. All you dare come, by and by the edge of your world is an open sky”. The guitar solos on this track are some of the most memorable on the album.

 “Tauerngold”, is full of wonderful acoustic and rhythm guitar mixed well with keys and the usual heavy electric, bass and pounding drums. Sabine sings, “We were bound for this glaring ideal. The call of nature is our vein of gold. It is the future we hold. It is the scream of the eagle. The Midas touch. It is the eternal raging stream. The merit real. The only ideal. The Holy Seal”. The music is always better when this band tells an elegant story of their native history.


Finally, Lanvall unleashes the album’s best keyboard/synthesizer intro on the album for the opening of “What Dreams May Come”. Yes, that is what I was dreaming of, more cool keys, like Tool’s new album. That keyboard was awesome. But the electric guitar pairings on this track are also wonderful. Sabine sings, “Home again. The end is just a new beginning. Those kindred souls. When life is just a heartbeat”.  The lead electric guitar solos remind me of some of the ones I remember off The Bonding


“The Last of His Kind”, is the longest and most epic track on the album at over 12 minutes. The opening, is worth the price of admission alone, but it gets even better. They finally let Sabine sing with quiet background sounds surrounding. Like they did on The Bonding. That is when her voice is allowed to completely reach its epic proportions, full of all her emotions. She sings, “Did you hear me, did anything change? Time, time and again. Appallingly high. Why, we’re holding on? Only to find, he is the last of his kind”. The song’s middle section with cool percussion, electric and rhythm guitars, soft drums and keys is the most elegant section of the album.

I beg Lanvall and the band to please listen to Tool’s new album and hopefully they will hear the cool quiet sections, like this, are just as powerful as all the bombast. Sabine picks back up, “We’ve forgone the chance moving on in trance. Holier than thou. We want it now. We need it, to feed it”. Thunderous guitars and drums as an epic soundscape builds, like the glory of The Bonding returning. Sabine closes the album elegantly with the words, “Oasis of light. A planet of grace. Where powers unite. Shall be our place!”

 
“Dynamind”, is a final closing thought set to song, with Sabine singing, “The Holy Grail of inner wealth will lead away. From the demotion and remorse, out of grey. When polarity will balance the world, rising above mankind. It’s Dynamind, for all!”

Edenbridge is: Sabine Edelsbacher, on lead vocals; Lanvall, on lead and rhythm guitars, bass, 6 & 12 string acoustic guitars, piano, keyboards, orchestration, Hammered Dulcimer, Kacapi, Bouzouki, and mandolin; Dominik Sebastian, on lead and rhythm guitars; Johannes Jungreithmeier, on drums; and Stefan Gimpl, on bass.

Dynamind will be release October 25th, 2019. It is another great album, by a favorite band. Get this for your collection. But hopefully, the band will return to the music and orchestration of The Bonding, and stay away from the standard grinding metal they are used to creating.

Dynamind will be available in the following formats: DigiPak CD, including bonus CD – 2 colored (blue with black swirls), Gatefold LPs with printed inner sleeves, CD in paper sleeve. 

Track listing: 
01. The Memory Hunter 
02. Live and Let Go 
03. Where the Oceans Collide 
04. The Other Side 
05. All Our Yesterdays 
06. The Edge of Your World 
07. Tauerngold 
08. What Dreams May Come 
09. The Last of His Kind 
10. Dynamind

https://www.edenbridge.org/

https://www.facebook.com/EdenbridgeOfficial/

https://edenbridge.bandcamp.com/

Interview with Steve Hillage about Love From the Planet Gong Boxed Set

A new boxed set titled Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 will be available on September 27, 2019. From that we’ve listened to so far, the remastered versions are outstanding. We spoke with progressive music and electric guitar innovator Steve Hillage, who was a member of Gong during the early 1970s.

Steve Hillage

Q. The original Gong is described as a Franco-British or international band. How did the French, British, Australian and Fijian musicians meet each other?

Daevid Allen always used to refer these magical meetings a “by chance and by trance”. But the basic story is that Daevid, as a young aspiring poet and musician, left Australia in the early 60s and wanted to come to London and Paris, which he saw as epicenters of the Beatnik movement. After various adventures he eventually formed a band with some other quirky and experimental musicians, based in Canterbury, UK. They became the Soft Machine, and they quickly developed into one of the two (along with the Pink Floyd) top psychedelic bands in the UK in the heady years of 1966 and 67.

Later, in 67, after an extended tour in France, where they became highly acclaimed in the French underground arts scene, the Soft Machine returned to the UK but Daevid was stopped at the UK border and was refused entry, having an incorrect visa. He stayed on in France and formed an initial experimental collective, also with Gilli Smyth who was living in France, and later met up with French saxophone and flute player Didier Malherbe who was to become a hugely important part in what eventually became Gong.

The band’s first official gig was in October 1969, which makes this year the 50th Anniversary! Gong went through various line-up changes, and after the recording the Flying Teapot album went into a state of dissolution, with an entirely new line-up formed, initially without Daevid and Gilli. Starting with myself, Tim Blake and Didier we were approached by an amazing drummer Pierre Moerlen, from a classical percussion background. Daevid met a bass player, Mike Howlett, who was born in Fiji and had been in bands in Australia, and he recommended him to us. And so was born the so called “classic” line-up that recorded the Angel’s Egg and You albums, as featured on this box set.

Q. What spoken language did you use to communicate?

French and English, often mixed together in what we call “Franglais”…

Gong in 1974

Q. Gong became a breeding ground for various musicians who moved on to make progressive rock, jazz-rock, electronic music and other musical forms. How was the music making process and was there a lot of experimentation in terms of music and musical instruments?

I can only really speak of the period 1973-75, when I was in the band, in particular on the Angel’s Egg and You albums. We had a fantastic mixture of musical personalities with different styles and we succeeded in making a whole that was definitely greater than the sum of the parts, but with a strong Gong sonic identity. We used to jam a lot and developed shared skills in going on musical journeys. It was a wonderful time, but it was a combustible mix as we each had strong personalities and it became difficult to sustain for more than a couple of intense years.

Q. What did you enjoy the most during those early Gong years?

Creativity, fun and psychedelic adventures. And we had a lot of laughs too.

Q. Tell us about your favorite performance venues in the 1970s.

Hard to say, but one club we played at several times, in central France, was the Club Arc En Ciel (in translation “The Rainbow Club”). This was a very free place with a great crowd and we loved playing there. Luckily, we got the Manor Mobile studio to come down and record a whole show there in 1973, and we have included it in the new box set.

Cover of Gong;s Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75

Q. The new boxed set “Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75” includes the first original albums. Are these reissue remasters and was there any remixing as well? Were any original members of Gong involved in the process?

The key thing about this box set release is that we, the surviving members of the 1973-75 line-up, have been able to examine all the master tapes in the Virgin Records archive, and most importantly we have for the very first time a CD release of the Flying Teapot album from the original masters used for the original vinyl release.

We had access to all the multi-tracks, but we weren’t particularly interested in making new mixes. We just wanted to make the original mixes from the original masters sound great. And here we have the second key thing, in that the original engineer from the Manor Studios, who engineered these albums and was our co-producer, was Simon Heyworth, who is now a noted mastering engineer! So we got Simon to master or re-master everything, which goes right back to the roots of the sound we were making then, and making it sound good and pristine for now! Also Simon is experienced in 5.1 surround sound, and after some searching we located the original tapes of the quad mixes of the You album, that he was involved in at the time, and these have also been re-mastered for contemporary digital surround.

Gong boxed set – Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75

Q. The boxed set also contains a lot of other material. Tell us about the bonus tracks and previously unreleased material contained in this anthology.

Some of the album bonus tracks have been released before but some, including various different mixes of the title track of Flying Teapot, and the Shamal alternative mixes, have never been released before. Apart from the Bataclan live show, which was only partially released before, all the other live gig recordings have been mixed from multi-track by our former bass player Mike Howlett, and only some tracks from these shows have ever been out before. And, like the studio albums, the bonus tracks, radio recordings, and live show recordings have all had the meticulous mastering attention of Simon Heyworth.

We feel we’ve extracted all the best stuff from the Virgin tape archives. There’s nothing really left now – it’s all here – with Love from the Planet Gong!

Q. Gong continued with newer musicians after Daevid Allen died. A new upcoming tour was announced featuring yourself. What is the line-up and what songs will you perform live?

Gong’s story has continued right up to the present day. It was Daevid’s adamant dying wish that the final line-up he had assembled should carry on as Gong. They’ve now released two successful and brilliantly received new albums since Daevid passed away and they are a brilliant band with their own sound, but one that is still fully imbued with the unique vibrations of Daevid and Gong. So they continue to fulfill Daevid’s wish, and also I’ve collaborated on some of their recordings and have played a number of shows guesting with them.

When I was offered the perfect opportunity to play some Steve Hillage Band shows earlier this year, the obvious choice was to invite the guys from the current Gong line-up to play with me as the Steve Hillage Band. It worked out great, and now we have a substantial UK and Europe tour coming up in November. On this tour the Gong guys will also play their own Gong set, featuring high energy Gong classics and tracks from their acclaimed new album The Universe Also Collapses. The Steve Hillage Band set features tracks from my 70s albums Green, Fish Rising, L and Motivation Radio. We see our November/December tour as a great way to celebrate the release of this box set and Gong’s 50th anniversary!

Q In addition to the boxed set and the live concerts, are there any activities planned, such as new studio or live albums?

There are all kind of thing on the front burner, the back burner, the side burner. We move forward “by chance and by trance”…..

More about Gong.

Artist Profiles: Gong

Gong in 1974

Gong is a psychedelic rock band formed in the late 1960s when Australian musician Daevid Allen was refused entry back into Great Britain following European tour dates with Soft Machine. He decided to stay in Paris, where he began working together with Gilli Smyth and various musicians on what would eventually be recognizable as Gong.

The first recordings from the band were Magick Brother, Mystic Sister in 1970. Followed by albums such as Camembert Electrique, Flying Teapot, Angels Egg and You. These last three albums followed the fortunes of Zero The Hero and told the tale of the pothead pixies and was told over the course of the three albums and became the Radio Gnome Invisible Trilogy.

Following the release of You in 1974, Daevid Allen and Gilli Smyth left Gong and Steve Hillage became the band leader. He also left in 1975 to pursue a solo career. Gong continued in a jazz fusion oriented direction which was very different from the original musical concept of the band.

Since the 1970s, Gong experienced various reincarnations with variations of the Gong name: Mother Gong, Pierre Moerlen’s Gong, Planet Gong, New York Gong and Gongmaison.

Founder Daevid Allen re-formed Gong various times and his last album was I See You, released in 2014. He died in 2015 and a new Gong lineup without Daevig Allen released Rejoice! I’m Dead! (2016). This new lineup, led by Kavus Torabi, featured Fabio Golfetti, Dave Sturt, Ian East and Cheb Nettles.

in 2019, a boxed set titled Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 was released.

Discography:

Magick Brother (BYG Records, 1970)
Camembert Electrique (Philips, 1971)
Continental Circus (Virgin Records, 1972)
Flying Teapot (Virgin Records, 1973)
Angel’s Egg (Virgin Records, 1973)
You (Virgin Records, 1974)
Shamal (Virgin Records,, 1976)
Shapeshifter (Celluloid, 1992)
Zero to Infinity (Snapper Music, 2000)
Acid Motherhood (Voiceprint, 2004)
2032 (G-Wave, 2009)
I See You (Madfish, 2014)
Rejoice! I’m Dead! (Madfish, 2016)
The Universe Also Collapses (Kscope, 2019)
Love From The Planet Gong: The Virgin Years 1973-75 (UMC, 2019)

Dawn Lights – “The Illusion of Tension”

Dawn Lights – The Illusion of Tension

Dawn Lights is an alternative/metal/progressive rock band out of Cleveland, Ohio. Yeah, anyone who knows me, knows Cleveland is my birthplace. So, I had an early interest, because of that fact. Despite that, you have to earn my or anyone else’s attention if you want to get written about favorably. And this band definitely has earned my respect with The Illusion of Tension.

However, The Illusion of Tension, is the band’s third album. They have built a loyal and critical following beyond the Mid-West. Their first album, My Will Alone was released in 2011. That album was followed up by their sophomore effort, Exaggerate the Distance, in 2013. Both albums are on my wish list for the future.

Dawn Lights is made up of two talented musicians Eric Hess, on vocals, and storytelling; and Dean Johnson, who plays most of the music and creates the musical sceneries. Their goal, “A studio project born out of the love of music, for the sake of making it”. Now that attitude is rare, but it is more than welcomed.

The album opener, “The Illusion of Tension”, will make you a believer, if you had any doubts going in. Like a powerful mix of Dream Theater’s early sound mixed well with Karnivool, and the metal power of Metallica or Nine Inch Nails. The grinding guitars and bass that provide the “21-gun salute”, along with the drums rocking, give provide a welcoming celebration. Eric Hess’ voice sounds a little like Ian Kenny, if he was yelling, or a little like fellow Clevelander, Trent Reznor, from Nine Inch Nails. This opener is one of the best songs on the album.

After a short percussion intro, you get a kind of David Fielding, Chameleons UK’ electric guitar opening, mixed well with Andrew Goddard’s Karnivool sound on “Everything You Need”. Plenty of original and innovative lead electric guitar work supported well by bass and smashing drums. The pace of the music comes at you fast like Karnivool. There is no time to reflect. But you don’t need to, when you have this much great music bubbling through your ears.

“Right Now,”, slows the pace down a little, but the power of the music is still up to the rest of what you have already heard. Eric Hess’ sings, I cannot save you, no matter who you are. What are we supposed to do now?. I will fight for you! We need to live right now!” That sense of urgency permeates this music well, from beginning to end.

“Moments”, opens with cool keys and drums smashing loudly and percussion. Eric Hess’ voice sounds more like Trent Reznor on this fast-paced track. The drumming is hypnotic, and so is the wonderful percussion going on. Eric Hess sings, “I need you, you need me…to make this whole”, as power lead guitars echo in the background and drumming with mixed percussion, fill the soundscape. The quieter electric guitar solo at the end is worth the wait. Another of the best songs on the album.

“Breakthrough”, fills the sound space with powerful lead electric guitar, bass and that wonderful drum rhythm and percussion. Hess’ sings, “I can’t break through!” Such a cool urgency and blasting frontal attack. Like a great mix between Nine Inch Nails and Karnivool.

“Heroes in Time”, is a softer, moody track, where Hess’ vocals get a much clearer sound, amidst soft keys, synths, bass and soft drums/percussion. Great song, set to a slower, more reflective pace.  

The rest of the album is similar in nature and the story unfolding from the opening gets a powerful and emotional musical soundtrack.

This is an excellent album. A great introduction to Dawn Lights. I am interested enough to want to go back and listen to their earlier other two albums. Please listen and buy this album if you love a heavier edge to your progressive rock, moving at a fast pace, like Karnivool’s Sound Awake, with a guitar assault that will make you smile.

Track List

  1. The Illusion of Tension – 3:55
  2. Everything You Need – 4:24
  3. Right Now – 3:56
  4. Moments – 5:03
  5. Breakthrough – 3:45
  6. The Heart of Me – 3:53
  7. Embracing Chaos – 5:58
  8. Heroes in Time – 3:11
  9. The Actor – 3:23
  10. Wide Open – 4:13
  11. The Only One – 4:01
  12. My Connection – 3:16
  13. Wake Up the World – 4:00
https://www.facebook.com/DawnLightsBand/

m.me/DawnLightsBand

Lazleitt – “Perpetually Under Idle Grounds”

Lazleitt – Perpetually Under Idle Grounds

Lazleitt is a progressive rock project conceived by Alex Lazcano; a Washington, DC-based musician, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist.

I had the pleasure of reviewing Alex Lazcano’s debut album from 2018, On the Brink. It was a wonderful album filled with some of the best keyboard work I had heard that year. Now Alex has returned with a much more full-scale album, including many important supporting musicians.

On Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, Alex Lazcano, plays guitars, bass, keyboards, piano, and sings vocals; Eric Gillette, (The Neal Morse Band), plays drums & lead guitar; Liz Tapia, (Dark Beauty), adds lead and supporting vocals; Carlos Hernandez, (Tree Of Life Project), plays lead guitar; and David Knowles, (The Swan Chorus), plays keyboards.

Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, is an incredible step forward for Lazleitt and Alex Lazcano. His first album was a stunner, but this album takes him to a brand-new level of talent exhibition. Each of the tracks beyond the prelude, take you inside an intricate story, which plays out throughout the album. More of Alex’s classical music background comes through on this album.

The Prelude is a synthesizer and keyboard extravaganza, of fire and light. It is a beautiful awakening type piece that truly gets this epic album off to a gallant start.

The next track, “Furtive Shelter”, mimics the opening track, prelude, only this time using electric guitar. The song is inspired by the works of H. P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe, and others. “Furtive Shelter” features a keyboard solo by Lazcano. David Knowles provides beautiful high strings and synth arpeggios throughout the piece. Liz Tapia sings soft lead vocals, adding another vocal sound to Lazleitt’s repertoire. Carlos Hernandez and Eric Gillette play some innovative alternating electric guitar solos. This is the longest and best track on the album at over 21 minutes.

“Gallows Hill: Dossier 1: Grace Sherwood”, is a story about a forty-six-year-old Princess Anne County woman named Grace Sherwood, who faced being accused of being a witch back in 1706. She was about to be thrown from a boat into a river as a test to see if she was a witch. Luckily her case passed from the county court to the attorney general of Virginia without any judgment. Musically, the track is full of regal splendor keyboards, electric guitar and bass.


“Gallows Hill: Dossier 2: Bridget Bishop”, tells the story of Bridget Bishop, who was one of nineteen people executed for witchcraft in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1692. After Bishop’s hanging, eighteen others were executed for the crime of witchcraft. Eric Gillette’s drums stand out well amongst the regal music filling the soundscape.

“The Owl and the Blue Rose”, is inspired by the David Lynch classic, Twin Peaks. The music follows the shows’ “illusory perceptions of the mind awakening to alternate dimensions or multiverses”. This song is inspired by the episode which features, “The Giant, who first appears to Agent Cooper after he’s been shot and drifts between states of consciousness, and informs Cooper “the owls are not what they seem”. “Blue Rose was a top-secret joint task force of the United States military and Federal Bureau of Investigation, formed in the years after the official closure of Project Blue Book in 1970 to investigate cases of a paranormal nature”. The piano and keyboards which open this track will take you back to early and mid-70s Genesis, which is a wonderful trip back, every time you get to take it from a different musician’s perspective. This is the second-best song on the album.

Perpetually Under Idle Grounds, is a wonderful follow-up to Lazleitt’s first album. Get this second part of Lazleitt’s discography to build on the collection. Fine progressive music with a classical influence.

Track List

  1. Prelude – 1:13
  2. A Furtive Shelter – 21:13
  3. Gallows Hill Dossier 1: Grace Sherwood – 5:00
  4. Gallows Hill Dossier 2: Bridget Bishop – 6:35
  5. The Owl and the Blue Rose – 8:18

Written, produced, and arranged by Alex Lazcano. Additional production by Eric Gillette. “The Owl and The Blue Rose” – lyrics written by Sue Lumb. Mixed & mastered by Eric Gillette at EKG Studios, www.ericgillettemusic.com. Sleeve design by Alex Lazcano.


Lazleitt: https://www.facebook.com/lazleitt

https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/lazleitt4


Dark Beauty (Liz’s band): http://DarkBeautyMusic.com


DBLT Designs (Liz’s jewelry line): https://dbltdesigns.com


The Swan Chorus (David’s band): http://theswanchorus.bandcamp.com


The Tree of Life (Carlos’ project): www.treeoflife-project.com


EKG Productions (Eric’s studio): www.ericgillettemusic.com

Interview with Annie Haslam of Renaissance

Singer Annie Haslam has one of the most recognizable voices in the progressive rock world. She joined progressive symphonic rock group Renaissance during its early stage and has carried the torch for many years. Annie currently leads Renaissance and the band is geting ready to tour the United States. She talked to Progressive Rock central about her career and the upcoming tour.

What are your fondest musical memories?

Performing at Carnegie Hall in 1975, the Albert Hall in 1977, meeting my favorite singer I used to listen to before I started singing professionally ‘Joan Baez’, and I was also thrilled that she knew of me too!

Also meeting Paul McCartney at De Lane Lea studios in 1977 when I was recording my solo album ‘Annie in Wonderland‘ produced by Roy Wood.

Annie Haslam – Annie in Wonderland

Roy and I were listening back to ‘If I Loved You’, and I had just finished my final vocal track. Paul was at the studios with Linda and Denny Laine, they were mixing ‘Wings at the Speed of Sound‘.

Paul was taking a break and heard my vocals floating down the corridor from studio 3! When he came in he said how beautiful my singing was and that it made his hair on his arms stand up ! Wow!
Hhe stayed and chatted for about an hour, a magical experience!

Performing in 2017 with orchestra again, 40 years almost to the day that we last played with an orchestra… it was a huge amount of work to put it all together and something we had been trying to accomplish again for many years. We have a DVD from the Keswick Theatre show, Glenside, PA called ‘A Symphonic Journey‘, a very proud time!

Renaissance – A Symphonic Journey

Did you have any formal music studies?

Yes I did, I went to Sybil Knight who had been an opera singer, because of that I learned to sing from my diaphragm and not just from the throat, that is when I discovered my 5 octaves!

What was the first tune you learned?

When I was very young, I learned a song called “Diana” by Paul Anka… when friends came to the house (in Bolton, Lancashire), my Dad used to say “Our Anne, come on let’s hear you sing Diana… I was always mortified and dreaded those words that I knew were coming. I was only 10 and would only sing standing behind the door to the kitchen so no one could see me!

What do you consider as the essential elements of your music?

First, the strong beautiful and memorable melodies, carried along by the piano as lead instrument, thought provoking and unique interesting lyrics and my 5 octave voice. All of these elements enhanced by lush and powerful orchestral arrangements.

Renaissance was one of the pioneers of the progressive rock genre. How did the confluence of rock and symphonic music come together in your case? Were there other influences?

The original band was formed by Keith Relf and Jim Mc Carty of the Yardbirds. They were the ones who created the sound of the band. We took it to another level with the addition of more classical influences and writing our own pieces in a more classical vein and, of course, taking it to the ultimate level by performing with orchestras; in particular, The New York Philharmonic (Carnegie Hall) and The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Royal Albert Hall).

Renaissance

The British and American mainstream music media were very hostile towards progressive rock. How did they treat Renaissance and why do you think there was such animosity towards progressive rock?

I am not aware that there was hostility. I remember being treated very well, with maybe a few reviewers that couldn’t quite get a hold of the longer passages that came along with this genre…we were very fortunate here in the USA with WNEW in New York City (Alison Steele) and WMMR in Philadelphia (Ed Sciaky) playing a huge role in breaking the band in this country.

Many of the progressive rock pioneers kept the band name but changed genre in the late 1970s and early 1980s, switching from progressive rock to radio friendly AOR and pop. Did Renaissance get any pressure from record labels and radio stations to change its format to shorter catchy songs?

We certainly did, and I was against it, but the times were changing, and after Northern Lights was a hit, it was plain to see that we were capable of writing pop songs… but we took it to the extreme, and sadly lost out uniqueness. We never caught up again until Michael Dunford and I reformed Renaissance in 2009 using some of my solo band musicians… from which we have grown from strength to strength. Sadly Michael passed away in 2012.

How did your musical ideas evolve throughout the years from your debut album to your latest recordings?

We were not involved in the first Renaissance album..Kings and Queens, a fabulous album. When I went for the audition in 1971 I learned all the songs on that and was asked to sing Island, which got me the job and which we orchestrated for the first time and included it in our 2017 ‘A Symphonic Journey‘ DVD.

renaissance – Prologue

Our albums from Prologue on evolved naturally from one album to the next; it was like we were all growing together in the same direction. The music was outstanding between 1972 through 1979, and stands out as being some of the best… After we made the foopah of taking the wrong direction in the mid-early 80s, finally years later when we reformed, Michael and I vowed we would go back to our roots, and we did with a glorious album called ‘Grandine il Vento (2012).

Renaissance – Grandine il Vento

Tell us a little about your upcoming tour and the musicians you are currently working with.

Our upcoming tour will be on the US east coast it will be our 50th Anniversary Tour, with 10 concerts, 5 will be with our very own ‘The Renaissance Chamber Orchestra.’

Founding member of the Yardbirds and Renaissance Jim McCarty will be making a special appearance at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, Pennsylvania on October 12th and will be filmed for a blue-ray DVD. Band members are: Annie Haslam on lead vocals; Rave Tesar on keyboards; Mark Lambert on guitars and vocals; Leo Traversa on bass guitar and vocals; Geoffrey Langley on keyboards and vocals; and Frank Pagano on drums, percussion and vocals.

Renaissance in 2019

Your tours seem to focus on the northeastern region of the United States, what some call the progressive rock corridor. Do you have plans to tour in other parts of the United States or elsewhere?

We would love to perform in other parts of the US but it is too expensive to take 9 people on the road… our hearts are willing but the promoters cannot pay enough to make it happen.

We have been able to go overseas in the past few years, though, and since we reformed in 2009 we have been to Japan, South Korea, England, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Israel, Portugal and Brazil… in fact we are going back to Brazil next March (2020). So excited about that!

Mainstream media does not provide an outlet for progressive music. In what ways are you promoting your music?

We promote through live shows of course, some internet radio stations and there is streaming of many types… seems like the internet world in unending.

Of course there are still FM radio stations still playing our music, but most of them are commercial now and the DJ’s have less ability to choose their own choice of music.

If you could gather any additional musicians, or bands, to collaborate with, whom would that be?

At this point in time, I would just love to keep performing with Renaissance accompanied by orchestra, it’s just way it should be!

Personally, I would like to finish off a writing/recording project with Steve Howe that we started back in 1997. We wrote some beautiful songs together over in the UK and our blend of his unique style of guitar work and my voice were a match made in heaven.. that’s my wish (smiles).

Aside from the tour, do you have any additional upcoming projects to share with us?

After the Fall tour I will be going over to the UK in January to edit the DVD, looking forward to that very much. Then, we will be touring in Brazil next March, 2020. We were there in 2017, quite an amazing experience as the fans had been waiting over 45 years to see the band! So we know they will be unforgettable shows.

headline photo: Annie Haslam – Photo by Ebet Roberts

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