Tag Archives: featured

Giant The Vine’s Cinematic Explorations

Giant The Vine – Music for Empty Places (Lizard Records, 2019)

Italian band Giant The Vine delivers an effective set of instrumental tracks on Music for Empty Places. The group combines high energy guitars (although not metal), cinematic passages, symphonic rock, post rock and exquisite mellotron.

Giant The Vine – Music for Empty Places

There is a nicely-crafted balance between the muscular rock and the delicate and mesmerizing, laid back segments. You’ll hear echoes of King Crimson, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Anglagard.

The lineup on Music for Empty Places includes Fabio Vrenna on guitars; Fulvio Solari on guitars; Daniele Riotti on drums and percussion; Marco Fabricci on bass; Chico Schoen on keyboards; and Ilaria Vrenna on keyboards.

An excellent release by a very promising forward-thinking band.

Buy Music for Empty Places

Rodrigo y Gabriela’s Acoustic Rock Meets Floydian Echoes

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Mettavolution (ATO Records, 2019)

Acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela continue their fascinating deconstructions of hard rock and heavy metal through acoustic guitars, flamenco and Mexican influences. However, this time, they also add a superb recreation of a progressive psychedelic rock classic, Pink Floyd’s iconic Echoes.

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No-Man – “Love You to Bits”

Wow! Eleven years waiting for a new No Man album. Both Tim Bowness and Steve Wilson have been very busy with solo and other projects in the interim. They now return to deliver Love You to Bits, this November 22, 2019.

Can you dance to prog? Well…now you can, when its blended well with electronica, ambient, pop and fusion. Especially when that album “chronicles the aftermath of a relationship from different perspectives”. An album about Love and its affects.

Love You to Bits, is No Man’s seventh album, and possibly its most entertaining. The band is made up of Tim Bowness, the lyrics writer, who also sings lead and harmony vocals; and Steven Wilson, on guitars, keyboards and other instruments. The album was written and produced by No Man .

The band invited guest performers on Love You to Bits, including: Adam Holzman, (from Moonparticle, Steven Wilson, and The Fents), playing keys; David Kollar, from Komara, playing guitars; Ash Soan, from Aviv Gefen, on drums; Pete Morgan, playing bass; and the Dave Desmond Brass Quintet.

“Love You to Bits” opens with some very cool orchestration, and then Tim Bowness’ voice enters the soundscape. One of the best voices in prog, never disappoints. “What are you thinking? What are you dreaming? I’d like to know what’s on your mind”. The keyboards are warm and welcoming. A very danceable beat sets the mood and makes this latest album, by one of my favorite groups, a very accessible creation. At around the 2:54 minute mark, a cool riff that sounds similar to one I remember from Pineapple Thief’s “Nothing at Best”, enters and it is repeated to great effect. Bowness continues to unfold his feelings for a past love before us. The openness and clarity is something we absolutely need in this current state of ‘no contact’ world we live in. Everything seems to be cold and shared over an impersonal Internet. The fact that a human being is expressing feelings so freely is refreshing.

The same open feelings are expressed to different pulses and beats throughout the five songs that make the complete set of side one or “Love You to Bits”. Trance, electronica, ambient, and freely danceable music is used to transmit this wonderful self-expression. Reaching out person-to-person for interaction. Like it used to be. Not over some sanitized cell phone or Internet connection.

The laser cool guitar work and Depeche Mode like keyboards are wonderful. The Dave Desmond Brass Quintet’s closing requiem sound is the perfect punctuation to the end of side one of the album.

“Love You to Pieces”, is the second side of the album and it is also broken into five parts. It opens with gentle flute like sounds, then Bowness sings softly and emotionally. “All of the heartache. All of the signs. All of the waiting. All of the time. All of the things we should have known. I thought of the future”. The gut feeling of a sudden end to a relationship.

This side of the album starts out more subdued, and more questioning of what has happened in the past. There is contemplation of the time spent, and the memories of what will be missed. This is a song of regret for a very dynamic and potent love, not a one-night stand.

On part 2, Bowness uses voice modulation to great effect.

On track 3, we get the powerful lyrics, “It felt like the future”.

On the closing track 5, I got a sense of the rhythm and keyboards I remember from 10CC’s “I’m Not in Love”.

This album, forces the listener to contemplate how much they want to hear those words, “I Love You”? I think it is the Holy Grail that we all seek from birth; and in many different ways. Just to belong to the society we live within, and the world as a whole. Imagine that feeling, set to music. That is what you get with No Man’s latest creation. It also, hopefully, makes you appreciate how important and fragile love is, and to try to preserve it.

Tool might have written the album of this year…capturing the current anti-social climate which has engulfed the world. No Man envisions a return to the feeling of normalcy and caring, which existed before this nationalistic fervor, that has gripped the world. They explore what it feels to be in love and to lose it. Their vision is more expansive and inclusive of more of the Earth’s residents. Their vision transcends time. Both good and bad times. We will always search for love like the Holy Grail. “No Man is an island”, and Love You to Bits may be the greatest affirmation of the band’s origin. After all,…”Love is all we need…”

Please get this album if you have ever loved, wanted love, or dreamed of what it would be like to be in love.

Track List

  1. – 4:53
  2. Love You to Bits (Bit 2) – 1:03
  3. Love You to Bits (Bit 3) – 1:35
  4. Love You to Bits (Bit 4) – 5:15
  5. Love You to Bits (Bit 5) – 4:19
  6. Love You to Pieces (Piece 1) – 6:03
  7. Love You to Pieces (Piece 2) – 4:02
  8. Love You to Pieces (Piece 3) – 3:03
  9. Love You to Pieces (Piece 4) – 2:02
  10.  Love You to Pieces (Piece 5) – 3:44

Love You to Bits was produced by NoMan, and the album was mixed by Bruno Ellingham. Matt Colton mastered the album for Caroline International.



Shining Pyramid on the Mesmeric Electronic Edge of Progressive Rock

Shining Pyramid – Children of the Stones (SEQ Records, 2019)

Shining Pyramid play a delightful form of instrumental progressive rock using guitars and keyboards (spacey synthesizers and gorgeous mellotron). What makes the duo especially attractive is it mix of classic 1970s progressive rock influences, space rock and Berlin-style electronic music.

Shining Pyramid – Children of the Stones

The two London-based musicians create layers of guitars and keyboards delivering a mesmerizing set of finely-constructed pieces. Shining Pyramid consists of Nick Adams on guitars and Peter Jeal on synthesizers.

Buy Children of the Stones

Elegant Atmospheric Jazz Guitar from Marstrander Trio

Marstrander Trio – Old Times, Beautiful Boy (Losen Records, 2019)

Norwegian electric guitar maestro Mathias Marstrander delivers a superb set of instrumental pieces where atmospheric jazz, rock and cinematic electronic music intersect elegantly.

Marstrander Trio – Old Times, Beautiful Boy

Marstrander extracts a wide range of sounds from his guitar, combining engaging melodies and electronic loop and ambience exploration. Bill Frisell influences are present throughout the album.

Two talented, creative musicians join Marstrander: Arne Toivo Fjose Sandberg on bass and Sigurd Steinkopf on drums.

Buy Old Times, Beautiful Boy

Electric Kif, Futuristic Fusion from Miami

Electric Kif

Electric Kif – Jefe (Electric Kif, 2019)

There is a new wave of electric fusion bands that are taking music into exciting, new directions. Electric Kif, from Miami, is a fine example of these new acts.

On Jefe, Electric Kif combines fiery jazz-rock, seductive funk, cutting edge electronic and global beats plus mesmerizing, chilled electronica.

Electric Kif – Jefe

This superb progressive music outfit includes Eric Escanes on guitar; Rodrigo Zambrano on bass, Moog, Rhodes, baritone and fretless guitars; Jason Matthews on keyboards; and Armando López on drums and percussion.

The ensemble is on tour this Fall:

September 30 Cary Street Cafe, Richmond, VA
October 02 Martin’s, Roanoke, VA
October 03 Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, Pittsboro, NC
October 04 Shakori Hills GrassRoots Festival, Pittsboro, NC
October 05 Into the Woods Festival, Charleston, SC
October 07 Rockwood Music Hall, NY, NY
October 08 Irons Works, Buffalo, NY
October 09 Thunderbird Music Hall, Pittsburgh, PA
October 11 Martyrs, Chicago, IL
October 12 Blu Jazz, Akron, OH
October 13 Bop Stop, Cleveland, OH~
October 24 Suwannee Hullaween, Live Oak, FL

Buy Jefe

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

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.