Monday, 31 August 2020

The Guide (Ken's Novel, 1999)

Here you are a Belgian band dealing with neo-prog sounds with a highly dynamic twist. "The Guide" is the title track of Ken's Novel's debut abulm and also its opener (or Chapter 1, following the literary presentation of this CD's tracks). There are good themes, simple and effective melodies in an upbeat main structure that some beautiful atmosferic passages enrich on the emotional side. Bernard Piette's keyboards provide a perfect background  and also some thrilling energy throughout the song. 

Denis Bulon is responsible for this imposing artwork.

Eric Vanderbemden's  guitar graces this song with lively and sometimes heavy riffs, while Patrick Muermans not only sings it very well, but also sets up a creative drumming interwined to Geoffrey Leontiev's drizzling bass. I do like the rich mixture of sounds and words in "The Guide" and its good balance between polished neo-prog and good old progressive rock.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Sepia And White (Abel Ganz, 2020)

The readers of my blog already know I like Abel Ganz very much. The first reason of this is that these Scottish musicians always improve and their music sounds richer and more interesting each time they release a new album. 2020's "The Life Of The Honey Bee and Other Moments Of Clarity" is another turning point in such a progress. This song, the longest one from the album (virtually a suite), is possibly the brightest gem of a brilliant collection. It displays charming arrangements, many time changes and beautiful melodies. 


A splendid cover art, isn't it?


The (electric) piano adds here and there a moving touch, while David King offers a beautiful guitar solo, Mick MacFarlane sings putting all his soul in each and every word from beautiful lyrics about passing time and new horizons. Of course, the keyboards duo provide the usual amount of magic and the rythm section keeps it up. This is exactly that kind of song I recommend to those who distrust neo-prog bands. They usually change their mind.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Eins (Polis, 2011)

What a magical atmosphere! German band Polis has a very rich mood palette ranging from heavy rock to romantic tracks. This is a good example of the latter. Mostly instrumental, the song explores the most spiritual quiet realms, then offers an unpredictable finale where Christian Roscher's vocals and Sascha Bormann's drums come in to give their biting touch. As usual with them, Polis like vintage instruments and are inspired both by English prog masters and by German krautrockers, so that each song of theirs has its own flavour, even if they keep a recognizable dark and deep approach to songwriting. 

"Eins" was Polis debut album in 2011.

Then I always like bands singing in their native tongue, something reminding me how universal good music and good prog rock are. Finally, the band's eclectic attitude and the way they dig into the darkest side of life could make of them the latest incarnation of the most original bands from the past, the likes of Uriah Heep or Popol Vuh. Well, at least, let's hope so!

Sunday, 31 May 2020

Tears And Pavan (Strawbs, 1973)

Strawbs were surely underrated during their early career, but Dave Cousins' band reached stunning creative peaks since their very first works and they never lost it. This track comes from "Bursting at The Seams", Strawbs' sixth album and it's the deepest and maybe most interesting one in this 1973 LP. The band's folk roots perfectly meet  progressive and classic elements following their wide, unpredictable arrangement concept. In fact, "Tears And Pavan" is divided into two parts (namely "Tears" and "Pavan") and it starts like a folk ballad, earthly sung by Cousins with the usual acoustic background. 

One of my favourite LPs by Strawbs, not one of my favourite cover arts...

But just when you think that's all the track has to say, here come the instrumental part and a Greek flavour you'd never expected there, followed by a Medieval touch. A good keyboard work (mellotron and harpsichord) graces this mini-suite and of course the melody is gorgeous and so well sung that even if you could find the arrangement a little too baroque, this track always keeps a high emotional power. Each time I listen to it, I feel like a traveler going across time, space and inner realms.

Thursday, 30 April 2020

Isolation (Jonny Ong, 2020)

It is a pleasure I'll never give up to put into this blog not only straight-prog songs but also open minded tracks like this one coming from Singapore born and London based multi-instrumentalist Jonny Ong. Sometimes such an unusual approach to music is quintessentially prog as Jonny Ong knows no boundaries when it comes to musical genres and moods. "Isolation" includes sad and claustrophobic passages and also sudden melodic openings, suggesting other worlds and brighter skies. Released durng the Covid-19 virus lockdown, those moods were even more widely shared, but they surely belong to every human's wealth of experience.

"Isolation" was released via Sound Portal Studios.

It is a fascinating, spiritual journey where Eastern and Western influences walk side by side, exalting each other. The clever choice of instruments our musician makes is another highlight of "Isolation" and I especially like the handpan, whose celestial sound is simply perfect in this track, setting up a beautiful contrast with the acid bakground. That's why I dare say (relying on Mr. Ong's kind understanding) that where emotions spring from music, there will certainly be prog.

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

Out of The Woods (Airlord, 1977)

Airlord are one of those Oceanian bands mixing with indisputable skills symphonic rock, pastoral moods and good old pop. Just like Sebastian Hardie (see in this blog) did in Australia and during the same years, Airlord imported prog in New Zealand (and then in Australia, where their career actually grew) and set up an enthralling, alternating style, including mellotron work, sudden rythmic changes, beautiful guitar solos, bluesy echoes and a good deal of vocal harmonies.

This artwork reminds me of Moody Blues...

This lushing list is all here, in this six minutes song coming from the only LP the band released in their career, back in 1977, titled "Clockwork Revenge". You'll find an everchanging plot, with some beautiful highlights like the heartwarming guitar solo, some liquid bass lines and of course the folkish opening vocals. There's a bit of early Genesis, a pinch of Moody Blues and even a touch of Canterbury scene, all that presented in a song-oriented package. I do think Airlord are worth a careful listening.

Friday, 28 February 2020

Flooded by Sun Light (Ain Soph, 1991)

Ain Soph are among the most inetersting Japanese bands ever (please find more by them in this blog). Even if "Marine Messagerie" CD was recorded in 1991, then re-released in 2005, these tracks were born in the late '70s, the first creative wave of Yozok (guitars), Mashiro Torigaki (bass),Taiqui (drums) and Kikuo Fujikawa (keyboards). "Flooded by The Sun" belongs to the melodic and Camel-esque vein of Ain Soph, and starts with a delicate mood, then gets more upbeat and intricate.

The 2005 reissue was co-labelled by Poseidon and Musea.

The whole song  (an instrumental, as usual with Ain Soph) is enjoyable and higly dynamic, so that all instruments are cleverly interwined to build up a brilliant, charming sound. Yozok's guitar solo is one of the highlights of "Flooded by Sun Light", and so is Taiqui's creative drumming. That's what I really like in this song: the way it combines lightness and sophistication. The Rising Sun touch, maybe.

Friday, 31 January 2020

Stifinner (Jordsjø, 2019)

Norway is home to a good deal of symphonic rock bands. Jordsjø's core line-up is a duo, namely Håkon Oftung (vocals and keyboard) and Kristian Frøland (drums), backed in their 2019 album titled Nattfiolen (the  lesser butterfly-orchid depicted on the CD the cover art) by five more musicians... including two keyboardists! "Stifinner" (meaning "pathfinder") is a pastoral-oriented song with louder Mellotron riffs and a lot of acoustic passages including beautiful flutes and acoustic guitars.


I also happen to like this beautiful cover art...
 
As usual with Jordsjø, the Seventies smell is strong and enticing, flowing through folk roots and symphonic arrangements. I like the melodies and the mood changes, and the Norwegian lyrics add a Nordic atmosphere to such a beautiful mix. Last but not least, even if there are several quiet and dreamy passages, you'llfind here a dynamic and creative drumming, an uncommon feature in pastoral tracks.