Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Différences (Arrakeen, 1990)

When I first lisened to Frernch band Arrakeen's CD titled "Patchwork", I immediately appreciated Maïko's voice, something between Annie Haslam and Kate Bush. But very soon I loved all the rest. Meaning good arrangements, beautiful melodies, skilled musicians and - last but not least - a rather eclectic approach to neo-prog, including classic quotations, Marillion hints (Steve Rothery also appeared on the CD's last track) and folk passages.

"Patchwork" was Arrakeen's debut album.

This song, the longest one from the album, is intended as a dialogue between five characters (She, He, The Painter, The Other One and The Echo) and is mostly based on a fluid mid-tempo and melodic pattern. Some good guitars and a clever keyboard background are also among its highlights. Unfortunately, Arrakeen were a short lived act and only released two albums. Such a shame, IMHO.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Parlour Games (Groundburst, 2017)

Ireland is a fairy land, probably that's why it dishes out some fresh and unpredictable music. Groundburst are an eclectic band from Dublin, ranging from electronic sounds to solid rock tracks and - last but not least - very good at communicating emotions. Take this "Parlour Games", for example. They mix post-rock, jazz hints and a light, proggy atmosphere in one coherent song, where you get hints of King Crimson, Radiohead and Police at the same time. 

"Parlour Games" comes from the band's "Triad" EP.

These three musicians know how to experiment new sound solutions without giving up consistency and agreeableness, so that this track is both challenging and blooming. I actually like the way Groundburst mix delicate and trenchant passages making use of skilly tempo changes... and you'll find a lot of this in their "Triad" EP. In our era of useless noises and ostentation, I'm glad to find here a rare example of good taste.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

The New Kings (Marillion, 2016)

"The New Kings" was a Marillion fans' favourite from the very start and for many good reasons, IMHO. Firstly, the leading melodies are excellent, enjoyable and far from trivial. Secondly, the plot of this suite, divided into four movements, is coherent and diversified. Thirdly, the instrumentation is rich and intriguing, including a string quartet, a hammered dulcimer (played by Hogarth) and some beautiful backing vocals.

"The New Kings" was the F.E.A.R. album leading single.

Last but not least, the lyrics about the illegal gain underworld are topical like never before. The warm and well mixed acoustic / electric sounds are fascinating and richly arranged, full of sharp changes and liquid solos, the way Marillion have to be both classic and modern. After all, the F.E.A.R. album is likely the band's proggest work in twenty years... excellent news, no doubt.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

King of Hearts (Drifting Sun, 2016)

A little neo-prog today. Drifting Sun are an International band including French, British and American members and based in the UK. I happen to like their rather eclectic approach to a sub-genre usually considered as an immutable canon. Listening to this song, taken from these musicians' "Safe Asylum" album, you'll find some Fish-era Marillion and IQ hints, but also a sprinkling of metal riffs and some Asia-like epic sounds. 

"Safe Asylum" was Drifting Sun's fourth studio album.

The melodies are well found and the ever changing arrangements add a less predictable side to this band's music. Peter Falconer's vocals perfectly match with the music and its contrast-based pattern, while the rest of the band plays as one, even if some very good solos  and even better duos enrich the track. In short, if ever you're into enjoyable, creative and inspiring (neo-)prog, this song and this band were made for you. Anyway, they surely were for me. 

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Lady of Shalott (Atmosphera, 1977)

Back to the Seventies, here you are a long epic by Israeli band Atmosphera, taken from their only album, released in 1977 and re-released in 2002 with an entire bonus CD. Efrayim Barak's voice sounds much like Jon Anderson's, but Atmosphera aren't just another Yes clone: their music ranges from Procol Harum to Camel, including glimpses of Genesis, Pink Floyd and - of course - Yes. Rather easy and melodic, this composition also features more tricky passages, some interesting keyboard and guitar solos (Moti Fonseca has an excellent touch, IMHO), and I especially like Yuval Rivlin's piano and Alon Nadel's intriguing bass lines. 

The 2 CDs version  also includes a videoclip of Lady of Shalott.

This suite (well, it is virtually a suite, even if an undivided one) has a solid and coherent pattern and isn't a mere period piece, being as enjoyable as it was in 1977. Some tempo changes actually strike me, and each passage seems to me well conceived and even better performed. In short, if you're searching for neglected jewels from the Golden Era of prog rock, this one's for you.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Outlines (The Chant, 2012)

The Chant are a Finnish band born during the 1990s, but their debut album was only released in 2008. This track, "Outlines", features some of their best qualities: it begins like many other post-rock compositions, then it unfolds a succession of diversified and fascinating atmospheres. Being a 7 members band, The Chant can put into their melting pot a good deal of instruments, encouraging an open-minded approach and a well assembled songwriting.

"A Healing Place" was the third studio album by The Chant.

I like the way they alternate full-bodied, thick passages and almost bare vocal-piano or vocal-guitar breaks. Sure, some of their moods aren't brand new and follow the contemporary post-rock trend, but The Chant are more than this, and a warm and definitely prog soul springs up when you don't expect it.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Pareidolia (Haken,2013)

"Pareidolia" is one of the two long epic tracks included in "The Mountain" album and also one of the most interesting songs by Haken, IMHO. I like the way the band mix different moods into a highly coherent composition: hard rock, eclectic prog, Eastern scales, introspective breaks and devilish solos are all gathered here. The atmospheric passages and the high tempo riffs follow each other and create a dynamic and riveting musical plot, where each idea seems to pop up at the right moment.

"The Mountain" was the third studio album by Haken.
 
The lyrics are about the human effort to find the meaning of life beyond the surrounding chaos and fragility. Pareidolia is the well known phenomenon in which we recognize familiar images where they don't exist, such as the man in the moon or animal shapes among the clouds. Such a challenging subject is very well supported by the band's music, summoning ancient civilizations and suggesting a rather pessimistic mood evolving in a majestic and even dreadful crescendo. A very special song, if you believe me.