Tag Archives: featured

A Drop of Light, a Masterpiece from Anglagard Founder Johan Brand

All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light (AMS Records, 2018)

All Traps on Earth is remarkable progressive rock band led by Anglagard bassist and composer Johan Brand. He invited fellow Anglagard colleagues Thomas Johnson (keyboards) and Erik Hammarström (drums and percussion) plus various guests, including Brand’s daughter on vocals.

A Drop of Light is a highly complex album where symphonic progressive rock meets jazz-rock and contemporary classical musical forms. Imagine Anglagard jamming with French band Magma plus bits of King Crimson and Van Der Graaf Generator.

All Traps on Earth delivers deeply intense segments with frequent time signature changes and fabulous bass, guitar and keyboard work plus soaring trumpet, wild saxophone and operatic vocals, along with meditative passages full of exquisite mellotron, flute and synths.

All Traps on Earth – A Drop of Light

For mellotron fans, this album is a precious gem. Anglagard mastered the use of the mellotron and brought it back to the top. All Traps on Earth continues this tradition, delivering some of the finest mellotron performances in recent years.

The album includes three masterful lengthy tracks with deep Anglagard influences, a fabulous tribute to Magma titled “Magmatic Warning” plus a very brief meditative keyboard piece.

The musicians A Drop of Light are all outstanding. Fans of instrumental progressive rock are in for real treat.

The lineup includes Johan Brand on Mellotron M400 and M4000D, Moog Voyager, Moog Minitaur, organs, Fender Rhodes, clavinet. Rickenbacker 4001 and 4001S basses, Fender Jazz Deluxe bass, Revelation Jazzmaster VI bass, Moog Taurus 1. Epiphone Gibson Les Paul guitar, Green Gibson Les Paul guitar, percussion and vocals; Thomas Johnson on grand pianos, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzers, pianets, clavinet, organs, Mellotron M4000D, and Moog Voyager; Erik Hammarström on drums, vibraphone, marimba, xylophone, glockenspiel, crotales, timpani, gran cassa, wood blocks, tam-tam, and tubular bells; Miranda Brand on vocals.

Guest: Fredrik Lindborg on bass clarinet, baritone, tenor, alto and soprano sax; Karl Olandersson on trumpet, flugelhorn; Magnus Båge on concert flute; Matthias Bååth on bass and concert flute, tenor and alto recorder; Phil Mercy on organic guitars.

A Drop of Light is an extraordinary master work, undoubtedly one of the finest progressive rock releases of 2018.

Buy A Drop of Light

Snarky Puppy, Unrivaled Masters of Funk and Fusion

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance (GroundUp Music, 2019)

Snarky Puppy, the finest funk jazz band in the current scene is back with a superb album titled Immigrance. Band leader Michael League clarifies the title of the album: “The idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we’re all in a constant state of immigration. Obviously the album’s title is not without political undertones.”

Snarky Puppy – Immigrance

The opening track, “Chonks” couldn’t be more spectacular; it starts with fabulous funk keyboards and progresses into outstanding jazz-rock fusion topped by Mark Lettieri’s brilliant guitar solo.

Michael League brings in some of the best young keyboardists to Snarky Puppy’s sessions and that’s what makes the band such a delight. Instead of the tired saxophone solos that other bands utilize, Snarky Puppy has a much modern, edgy sound with the use of electronic keyboards, guitars and a solid brass section.

“Bigly Strictness” is a seductive composition with a wonderful, creative global percussion section, smoky trumpet solo , Shaun Martin’s and Justin Stanton’s fantastic synths solos and mesmerizing gliding guitars. Pure beauty.  

“Coven” begins laid back with intricate bass lines, brass arrangements and forward-thinking trip hop feel. Shaun Martin delivers another masterful synth solo that leads into Chris Queen’s electric guitar solo. Progressive fusion at its best.

The trip hop returns on “Blig Blingi,” a bass-heavy funk piece, where chilled, futuristic keyboards and funk synth solos, dubbed drums, and brass, and complex, but accessible drum beats continue to impress. 

Track 5, “Xavi,” the longest piece on the album is more jazz-fusion oriented, featuring a breathtaking electric violin solo by Zach Brock; and an equally good Minimoog solo by Bobby Sparks. Percussionist Keita Ogawa also gets an opportunity to showcase his talent with an ocean drum solo. The track concludes with a great piano solo by Bill Laurance.

“While We’re Young” features steady funk drum beat, funk synth solo, majestic mellotron and reverb-rich brass.

“Bad Kids to the Back” is perhaps the least striking piece, featuring funk beats and predictable saxophone solo.

The final track, “Even Us” takes the music in a totally different direction, into the realm of contemporary world music, with Michael League picking up the ud. There are references to modern tango, Middle Eastern modes and western chamber music. It’s beautifully-orchestrated and deeply satisfying.

Buy Immigrance

Progday Adds Mike Keneally with Andy West, Farmhouse Odyssey and Marbin to 2019 Lineup

The 25th edition of progressive rock festival ProgDay has announced the main stage performances by Zappaesque guitarist Mike Keneally with Andy West (The Dixie Dregs), rising California progressive rock band Farmhouse Odyssey, and a Thursday night preshow by Israeli fusion band Marbin.

Farmhouse Odyssey

Other previously announced acts include Us, Today, a band that combines jazz, post-rock and electronic music; acclaimed Italian band Accordo Dei Contrari; the American masters of progressive symphonic rock IZZ; and Mörglbl.

ProgDay has partnered with Adele Schmidt and José Zegarra Holder of Zeitgeist Media Production to present a free screening of the feature film documentary, Romantic Warriors IV – Krautrock (Part 1).  Part 1 covers the music and history of Can, Faust, Harmonia, NEU!, Cluster, Damo Suzuki’s Network, and more. The screening will take place on Saturday, August 31, 9:00 pm at Hotel Comfort Inn University Durham.

Progday will take place Saturday, August 31st, and Sunday, September 1st, 2019.at Storybook Farm, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

headline photo: Mike Keneally by Tom Porta

More about Progday: www.progday.net

Bill Bruford Releases Massive Boxed Set: ‘Earthworks Complete’

Extraordinary British drummer Bill Bruford, known for his progressive rock and jazz-rock projects has released ‘Earthworks Complete,’ a spectacular 20CD/4DVD boxed set of the entire back catalog across Earthworks’ 20-year career. It includes previously unreleased and little known material.

The box includes 15 titles on 20 CDs and 4 DVDs. Musicians featured include Bill Bruford with Iain Ballamy, Django Bates, Patrick Clahar, Laurence Cottle, Tim Garland, Steve Hamilton, Tim Harries, Mark Hodgson, Mick Hutton, Gwilym Simcock.

Bill Bruford – Earthworks Complete

The collection was compiled and curated by Bill Bruford.

  1. Earthworks
  2. Dig?
  3. All Heaven Broke Loose
  4. Stamping Ground- Live
  5. A Part, and Yet Apart
  6. The Sound of Surprise
  7. Footloose and Fancy Free (2CD)
  8. Random Acts of Happiness
  9. Footloose in NYC (2CD & 1DVD set)
  10. A Video Anthology Volume 1: 2000s (2CD & 1DVD set)
  11. A Video Anthology Volume 2: 1990s (2CD & 1DVD set)
  12. Earthworks Underground Orchestra
  13. Earthworks in Santiago, Chile (1CD & 1DVD set: previously unreleased video)
  14. From Conception to Birth (17 short tracks showing the process from demo to master, with explanatory notes from Bill Bruford)
  15. Heavenly Bodies Expanded (2CD “best of” collection across the entire catalog, with explanatory notes from Bill Bruford)

Haken guitarist Richard Henshall Releases “Limbo” Music Video

Virtuoso guitarist guitarist Richard Henshall, well-known for his work as a founding member of prog metal band Haken, as well as Nova Collective, Mike Portnoy’s Shattered Fortress, and as a Strandberg Guitars associate artist, is set to release his debut solo album, ‘The Cocoon’. The album will be available on August 9th, 2019. Henshall has released a new video for the track “Limbo.”

Limbo focuses on the atmospheric side of my sound and draws influence from the likes of Sigur Ros and Volcano Choir,” says Richard Henshall. “The lyrics touch upon the idea of being stuck between two worlds whilst being bound by a fate that you have no control of. Miles Skarin from Crystal Spotlight put together this beautiful video with his own footage of the dramatic, barren landscape of Iceland, which ties in perfectly with soundscapes within the music.”

Rise Twain Release “Golden” Single

Philadelphia-based duo Rise Twain has released a single titled “Golden“. The group is set to launch its self-titled album Rise Twain on September 6th, 2019. The duo includes Brett William Kull (member of Echolyn, Grey Eye Glances, and Francis Dunnery’s New Progressives) and J.D. Beck (The Scenic Route, Beck-Fields).

Rise Twain – Rise Twain

The band says: “We sometimes watch lovers, friends, or family destroy themselves and those around; what was once idealized as golden, pure, beautiful, now lost in esoteric motivations. The chaos, tragedy, and permanence of these experiences become part of our lives… and they are woven into the notes, sounds, and performance of this new dynamic single by Rise Twain – Turn it up.”

Sverre Knut Johansen’s Spellbinding, Deep Sonic Landscapes

Sverre Knut Johansen with Robert Rich – Precambrian (Spotted Peccary, 2019)

Norwegian electronic music instrumentalist and composer Sverre Knut Johansen takes the listener on a mesmerizing voyage across the prehistoric progress of planet Earth and its inhabitants. He is joined by the great musician, sound investigator and composer Robert Rich.

Sverre Knut Johansen with Robert Rich – Precambrian

Together, Johansen and Rich create a splendid set of electronic music pieces that incorporate ambient textures, cinematic passages, soaring melodies and spellbinding sequencers combining electronics, samples, sound effects and natural sounds.

Each musical piece on Precambrian takes the listener through important geological periods and evolutionary occasions of Earth’s 4.6 billion year history.

The epochs on Earth are an exciting topic for me,” says Johansen, “so I was inspired to create an album around the concept of the Earth’s geological time scale. The music is epoch-based where I try to convey with nature sounds what might have happened on Earth, creating moods around certain events that have taken place, like oxygen, birds, water, and ice.”

The physical CD version of the album is beautifully packaged, featuring a trifold package and a gorgeous booklet, filled with stunning photography.

Buy Precambrian

Rhy Dongju, Korean Guitar Hero

Rhy Dongju – Lions’den II: Essence (Lions’den Records, 2019)

Lions’den II: Essence is a set of superb instrumental electric guitar pieces from Korean guitar virtuoso Rhy Dongju. He is deeply influenced by artists like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani.

Lions’den II: Essence presents a tasty mix of laid back bluesy pieces, masterful progressive rock and jazz-rock.

Buy Lions’den II: Essence

A Whirlwind of Progressive Psychedelia

Quantum Fantay – Yemaya Orisha (Progressive Promotion Records, 2019)

Belgian band Quantum Fantay has gradually become one of the most exciting psychedelic progressive rock acts in recent years. The group combines the best of instrumental spacey progressive rock with transfixing electronic music and world music elements.

Quantum Fantay – Yemaya Orisha

The current line up includes Pete Mush on synths; Tom Tee on guitars; Jaro on bass; and Louis Van der Linden (who replaced Gino Bartolini) on drums. Guests include Charles Sla on flutes; Maera on vocals; and Rafaela on vocals.

Yemaya Orisha contains a set of masterfully constructed progressive music wizardry. So far, one of the finest progressive rock releases of the year.

Phaedra: Groundbreaking Electronica

Tangerine Dream – Phaedra (Virgin Records/Universal International, 2019 reissue)

Phaedra was Tangerine Dream’s fifth studio album, recorded in 1973. This was a groundbreaking German electronic music recording that influenced numerous musicians in Europe, North America and beyond. The style is what has become known as the Berlin School of electronic music, a mesmerizing, trance-like genre that includes sequencer-propelled electronic sounds as well as pre-ambient floating or space music.

Tangerine Dream – Phaedra

This new edition of Phaedra is remastered and includes two bonus tracks, exquisite remixes of ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Sequent C’ by progressive rock musician Steven Wilson.

In 1973, Tangerine Dream was signed by a small trailblazing record label called Virgin Records. This was an adventurous label that released some of the finest progressive music of the early 1970s. Tangerine Dream recorded Phaedra in November of 1973 at The Manor in Shipton-on-Cherwell, England. It was released in 1974 on Virgin Records.

Although Tangerine Dream was a German act, their sales were considerably higher in the UK. Phaedra achieved six-figure sales in the UK and reached number 15 in the UK Albums Chart.

The lineup during Phaedra included Edgar Froese on mellotron, guitar, bass, VCS 3 synthesizer, organ (and also made the cover painting); Chris Franke on moog synthesizer, VCS 3 synthesizer; and Peter Baumann on organ, electric piano, VCS 3 synthesizer, and flute.

Additional Tangerine Dream remasters are being released currently: Rubycon, Ricohet, Stratosfear, Cyclone, Encore and Force Majeure.