Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Los Delirios del Mariscal (Crucis, 1976)

Crucis are one of the most influential bands from Argentina, despite the exiguity of their discography, no more than two studio albums and some live recordings. This is the title track from their second LP, meaning "The Marshal's Deliriums", released in 1976, just some months before they disbanded. Crucis were a rather eclectic act: their symphonic style included heavy and delicate moments and this track belongs to the latter. It's a 10 minute instrumental piece (all songs but one have no lyrics in this album) where Kerpel's calm and elegant keyboards perfectly match with Marrone's guitar solos. 

Juan Gatti is responsible for this beautiful art cover.

The well found recurring main theme guides the listener through an impressive and liquid crescendo beginning with an ethereal, spacey atmosphere and leading to the majestic finaale, something reminding me of Camel's best moments. No intricacy here, no sudden changes, no showy passages: just pure emotion and instrumental skills well spent for the big picture. In short, beautiful and clever!

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

Wilderness (Nine Skies, 2021)

 When it comes to blending acoustic and electric instruments in a rich, fascinating and rather vintage way, French band Nine Skies is worth a special mention among the most recent acts. Their 2021 album titled "5.20" is a very good example of such a product and this "Wilderness" is one of its best tracks, IMHO, includiong a dreamy guitar solo by Steve Hackett.  

Michael Cheval painted this beautiful cover art for 5.20.

Nine Skies like to explore different musical worlds and in this case they seem to dive into early Genesis mood, with a 12 string guitar intro, a sad and melodic vocal theme and the above mentioned airy solo. There's a beautifully set transition from darkness to brightness, underlined by piano and bass guitar in a clever, liquid and apparently natural sound flow. The final result is a refreshing experience, a trip into a moving and colourful world.

Saturday, 17 July 2021

YYZ (Rush, 1981)

 This is one of my favourite instrumental tracks ever. It comes from Rush's eighth studio album Moving Pictures. The title is just the identification code of Toronto Pearson International Airport, the one the band reached when leaving their homes and where apparently Alex Lifeson was inspired for the song's rythm by the morse code translation of YYZ (that's - . - - / - . - - / - - . .  and that's the opening sound of the track). This is a highly dynamic piece of music, incorporating both groove and melody, full of changes and pauses the stop and go way that Yes liked so much. 

This track is a real flight, IMHO...

The main theme comes in at well studied intervals and - as usual with Rush - the rythm section provides a rich palette of bridges, progressions and variations. The song's pattern is so unpredictable and sought after that you hardly believe it can be confined in a track of just over 4 minutes. Enthralling and ever changing, YYZ is a manifesto of this band's idea of progressive rock, an idea I like very much... and I daresay I'm not the only one!

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Ascending Forth (Black Midi, 2021)

 One of prog rock's strongest points surely is its amazing diversity and unpredictable evolution. Still, the more it changes, the more it remains itself. Black Midi are a beautiful example of such a statement. This young and open minded band carry out their own musical research through contaminations and keen composition patterns, just like the masters used to do, but with renewed energies and up to date visions. This is the closing track of their 2021 Cavalcade album, a magic cauldron in which Black Midi mix a good deal of different inspirations, instrumental solutions and emotional passages. How many landscapes in this 10 minute song, how many changes, how many old and new sounds! 

Order and chaos: a good depiction of Black Midi's music.

The moving vocals are likely the first thing you pick up listening to "Ascending Forth" and surely the way they flow through a stunning series of ups and downs ensures a deep, introspective mood to this song.  But then the brilliant framework in which all instruments and each musical change are pefrectly embedded unfolds all the attractions of the song. There's a scent of King Crimson, a hint of Tools and VDGG and even a Genesis breeze here, but above all the skills of these musicians we hope to meet again very soon on the trails of new prog journeys.

Monday, 31 May 2021

Overture / Reaching for The Sky (Transatlantic, 2021)

Once you've find your path through the different versions of Transatlantic's "The Absolute Universe" album, you'll find, I'm sure, one of the best prog releases of the 2020s. This couple of tracks make up one of the official videos by the band and this is how the Abridged version (also titled The Breath of Life) begins... and it's a great way to start! The instrumental overture includes both recurring themes of the album and a rich palette of variations and digressions, among which I must single out a stunning electric guitar solo and a highly creative bass line, not to mention the extraordinary skills of all members, never too showy and always at the service of the great picture. 

The cover arts alone would be a good enough reason to buy all the album's versions...

The following "Reaching for The Sky" develops the same highly dynamic pattern of the Overture, adding vocal contributions by all the band's members - Morse's one is perhaps my favourite one - on a new captivating theme and a (simply perfect) final guitar solo by Roine Stolt. I'm also fond of the rythm section's work on both tracks, but the likes of  Portnoy and Trewavas need no introduction. No doubt: this is true, quintessential, good old prog!

Friday, 30 April 2021

Solens Sirkulære Sang (Jordsjø, 2019)

Jordsjø are another fine example of symphonic prog made in Norway and with a folky twist... the way Scadinavians know so well. Håkon Oftung, the mind behind this band, is a skilled multi-instrumentalist and a talented songwriter, the latter being a quality not to be underestimated, if you ask me. This "Solens Sirkulære Sang" (meaning "The Sun's Circular Song"), taken from the band's fifth studio album "Nattfiolen" ("The Night Violin"), fully represents the colourful and varied palette of Jordsjø's musical world. 

This beautiful artwork is by Sindre Foss Skanke.

Tempo changes, loosely folk roots, a pastoral sound provided by Hammond, Mellotron and flute, beautiful guitars and a stunning grand finale too! The perfect blend of soft and dynamic moments in this song shows an accurate search for unexpected solutions and brilliant atmospheres and a special taste for unusual song patterns. The vintage sounds are never artificial, on the contrary they are so fresh and genuine that they add the final flavour to such a tasty delicacy.

Wednesday, 31 March 2021

Lies in The Sand (Raven Sad, 2011)

 Another Italian good band, but not what one usually labals as "Italan Prog". Raven Sad are an eclectic act, mostly into atmospheric sounds with beautiful guitar and keyboard solos. Space-rock, Psych Rock, yes, but with a strong emotional twist. They like down tempo songs, but they know how to rivet their listeners, even in long songs like this one, taken from their third album "Layers of Stratosphere". 

You won't find a more spacey cover art!

Raven Sad master mood changes, something they usually achieve by alternating the  foreground instruments, especially Samuele Santanna's guitars and Fabrizio Trinci's keyboards. Each musical shift opens new perspectives and deeper landscapes, like turning stages. It's kind of discovering new worlds and the sci-fi inspiration of "Lies in The Sand" adds a space-opera dimension to the big picture.