Saturday 31 January 2015

Us And Them (Pink Floyd, 1973)

One of the most popular songs by Pink Floyd, "Us And Them" is also one of the most atmospheric ones. Taken from the sorldwide sensation album "Dark Side of The Moon", like the rest of the LP this track is graced by the neat, ful bodied sound provided by Alan Parsons' engineering. Dick Parry's sax adds a warm, deeply human touch to this song, that also displays a well found melody. Furthermore, a spacey arrangement emphasizes the relaxing mood of the track, carrying the listener in a suspended and loose dimension.

An edited version of this song features as B-side of "Time" single.

David Gilmour's guitar gives of course the final touch to such a picture, practically a legend by now. Just the time to mention Rick Wright's background keyboards, never too intrusive and always essential to the band's sound and here you are a five star and eight minutes addition to your proggy playlist. Enjoy it once again.

Friday 30 January 2015

Go on My Way (Social Tension, 1989)

If you like keyboard-oriented prog and powerful trios, this track is for you. It comes from the album "Macbethia", by Social Tension, a Japanese band active between late '80s and early '90s, strongly influenced by ELP, but also liking up to date electronic devices. Mainly instrumental (but including some good sung melodies), this song isn't boring or monotone at all: many tempo changes and some original sounds catch the listener's attention.

This band released two studio albums.

As you can imagine, along with the modern samplings you'll find here some Hammond progressions by Nobuo Endoh and an excellent old style rythm section, provided by Suguru Iwasaki (drums) and Masahiko Õta (bass guitar). The classical influence is obvious, but the Japanese lyrics and the wall of sound climax give a rock opera taste to the song, something I usually don't like so much, but I actually appreciate here.

Tuesday 27 January 2015

Lover's End Pt. III: Skellefteå Serenade (Moon Safari, 2012)

Here you are a very well set up suite by Moon Safari, released as a stand alone EP in 2012. Even if there are no credited parts, this is definitely a suite with recognizable sections, recurring themes, vintage instrumental passages and interesting vocal harmonies. Firstly, this third installment of "Lover's End" is by far the longest and more complex one, the longest epic by the band, actually. Secondly, it's an excellent one, if you ask me, mostly down tempo, but with many accelerations and some heavier (well, kind of...) moments.

A view over Skellefteå, I presume.

As usual with them, Moon Safari mix acoustic and electric instruments with the best taste you can imagine, and get a well balanced, round, pleasant blend, the sort of music you could pick out as a Serenade... a long, tricky, intriguing one, to say it all. As the cover art suggests, this is also perfect for a relaxing tea time. By the way, Skellefteå is Moon Safari's own town, in the North of Sweden.

Monday 26 January 2015

Nürnberg (Hoelderlin, 1975)

Here you are a short, melodic, beautiful song with the right amount of German twist. This is "Nürnberg" by Hoelderlin, the shorter track from their 1975 self-titled album. If their first album, released three years before, was mainly a folk one, this time Hoelderlin surely set up a prog-folk work, with plenty of epics, original ideas, and instruments. "Nürnberg" is kind of a gentle interlude between two epic tracks, but I adore the way the band writed and played it.

This album includes five songs. All are excellent, IMHO.

This acoustic ballad is simply perfect, a nocturnal song full of poetry that never indulges in useless preciosity: just the sweetness you need, nothing more, nothing less. Such a balance is reinforced by the English lyrics about a short-lived love affair, so bare and essential. Enjoy.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Keep The Yellow Intact (Uphill Work, 2008)

Such a beutiful and unusual prog track, this "Keep The Yellow Intact" is. It comes from the album "Conterclockwise", the debut CD by Moscow based band Uphill Work, one of the most original Russian proggers I came across in recent years. The biting, ironic singing, the vaudeville rythm, the excellent piano bridges and the catchy melody are but a few of the strong point of this song. I also recommend the clever succession of sung and instrumental parts and the rather limited duration time, something useful if you want to amaze your listener.

An original cover art for an original band, I'd say.

And actually this song amazes me with his out of time mood, somewhere between a Victorian freak show and an industrial pop piece. Of course, this band also offer more traditional prog songs in their albums - always with an original twist, I must say - but I think this one is perfect to arouse my prog friends curiosity...

Thursday 22 January 2015

Obsolescence (Abel Ganz, 2014)

This is one of my favourite suites released during the '10s and surely is a most interesting piece of music. Divided into five different but perfectly matching parts, "Obsolescence" represents the Scottish band's new deal at its best. The folk and acoustic elements come with a modern and brilliant prog sound and the final result is worth the greatest attention. Not only there are excellent melodies and beautiful vocal harmonies, but the listener is overwhelmed by the flushing instrumental parts, bright and delicate, that's true, but also dense and colourful.

This self-titled album was the band's sixth studio work.

The different moods and the diversified rythmic solutions add a special value to the song, also enriched by graceful lyrics depicting the inner echoes suggested by the most intimate moments of a day, from dawn to dawn,. Close Your Eyes is the title of one of these song sections and I actually think one should close the eyes and follow the pure streaming of such a charming suite. The album including this pearl was released thanks to an Internet fundraising campaign... a very good reason to be grateful to the net, I daresay.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Ancient Afternoon of An Unknown Town (Ezra Winston, 1990)

Taken from the album "Ancient Afternoons", this 26 minutes suite is divided into nine parts bearing as suggestive titles as Magician's Words or The Dragon And The Ruby of Kos. I won't try to sum up the tricky narrative behind this assortment of wizards, dragons and battles, as I'm sure the music will be an enough good reason to listen to this track. The sung sections are just good, but the highlights here are the ever changing, magic, unearthly moods the band provide in the instrumental parts.

"Ancient Afternoons" was the second Ezra Winston's studio work.

There are some of the most praised Italian prog features, like the acoustic instruments (flute and guitar, plus a rich set of winds), the classical influence or the relaxed themes, but you'll also find some jazzy passages, a few medieval devilish dances, a recognizable folk reference, reminding me of the early Ant Phillips' songs and a symphonic setting not far from The Enid's example. Sure, this is not for heavy prog fans, but the rest of you should try this magical journey.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Time to Understand (Anima Mundi, 2010)

No doubt Anima Mundi is the most observant prog band from Cuba and this "Time to Undestrand" will easily prove how much they like progressive masters and how well they re-elaborate their models. You'll find here - and in the rest of "The Way" album - an up-to-date version of prog, full of tension and emotions. Virginia Peraza's keyboards are bombastic and also sensistive, while Carlos Sosa's vocals are somewhere between Steve Walsh and Perter Gabriel and Roberto Diaz plays very well a vast choice of electric and acoustic guitars.

"The Way" was the third Anima Mundi's studio album. 

Sure, around minute 6:00 we come across another Apocalypse in 9/8-ish quotation (Someone should list all of them, someday), but they soon exploit it in an original and pleasant way. And then, here you are a heartbreaking atmospheric section, featuring very good vocals too, finally leading to an excellent dreaming guitar solo. Many changes, many well found sounds, many good melodies... this definitely is one of my favourite prog tracks of the '10s. Try it and let me know your impressions, my prog friends.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Buscando algo de novo (Spin XXI, 2006)

Here you are a very late debut album for a Brazilian band whose roots go back to the '70s. They disbanded, re-united, changed their name al least two times... and finally they released the album "Contraponto" in 2006. A very good example of vintage prog revisited and empowered with some modern devices. After all, this track is called "Buscando algo de novo", something like "Searching for Something New". And there is something new, I think, especially in the theatrical and passionate performance of vocalist Kakao Figueiredo, but also in some of the guitar effects.

"Contraponto" also was one of the band's previous names.

Luckily for an old man as I am, many other things are well known and very good: the mood changes, the fusion od acoustic and electric instruments, the effective keyboards and a good deal of melodies. The moment I like above all the rest is the Banks-like keyboard solo just before the final section, that also is a recommended highlight of this song. So, if you feel like diving into the old prog sea, please, enjoy yourself.

Saturday 17 January 2015

Sur l'Océan couleur de fer (Alcest, 2010)

Alcest is the brand name of French multi-instrumentalist Neige, who usually sings, plays all the instruments and writes both music and lyrics. This track, whose title means "On The Iron Coloured Ocean", comes from the album "Ecailles de Lune" ("Moon Scales") and features lyrics by Paul-Jean Toulet and is a calm, nocturnal song we could label as "post-rock" piece, following the current definitions.

This was Alcest's second studio album.

Even if the whole song goes on the same (very down) tempo, the listener's attention is kept alive by the delicious, subtle guitar variations and by the keen succession of sung and instrumental parts. It isn't a music for the adventurous souls, I daresay, but there you are some 8 minutes of dreams, a charming trip along Wonderland paths. Close your eyes and have a go...

Friday 16 January 2015

Easter (Marillion, 1989)

This is a very popular prog song, and that's saying something. In fact, it isn't a trivial song at all, displaying a somehow original architecture, with a first section reminding me of a folk ballad and the second one a more lively and uneven finale, plus a guitar solo bridge between them. The sung part is sweet and catchy, but also very well arranged, blending a 12 string guitar and the keyboards, while the rythm section gently stresses Hogarth's vocal performance. 

This single peaked at number 34 of UK Charts.
Then, Steve Rothery offers a splendid dreaming guitar solo, the aforementioned bridge, actually an emotional peak of the song. The last parti is leaded by H's vocalizations, with the whole band coming in to build a mid-prog mid-pop effect. The lyrics are about Northern Ireland conflict and I think they're one of the best ones in Marillion's discography. In its variety, this really is a great song, IMHO, one of those rare progressive tunes some purists contemptuosly criticize and irresistibly sing along.

Thursday 15 January 2015

Wer Schmetterlinge lachen Hört (Novalis, 1975)

One of my favourite German prog tracks ever, this "Wer Schmetterlinge lachen Hört" (meaning "Those Who Hear Butterflies Laugh") is a rather long song - some 9 minutes - full of changes and charming atmospheres. The sung theme has a strong melodic flavour, but it's build over a dark, imposing organ background. The central instrumental part is more sparkling and displays changing tempos. Here the guitar and the rythm section rule, with a hint of electronic effects too.

This self titled album was the second Novalis' studio album.

During this interlude, Detlef Job's electric guitar goes solo adding a deep, sensitive touch to the big picture. The fascinating main theme comes back in the closing section on a military march drumming I also like very much. As many other Novalis' tracks, this epic has a recognizable Wagnerian and Romantic mood, and the listener goes through a dreamlike, colourful soundscape, actually living a strong emotional experience. That's prog, my friends!

Tuesday 13 January 2015

The Gamer (The Windmill, 2013)

With two albums called "To Be Continued..." and "The Continuation", these Norwegian musicians seem to have a coherent project in their minds. Well, they actually do a very good mix of classic and contemporary prog and I like the way they arrange catchy tunes and more complex arrangements. When it comes to a long epic like "The Gamer", they also showcase solid organizing skills. The recurring themes, the instrumental variations, the way each instrument comes in and plays its role in due time, the keen succession of melodic themes and rock riffs, swing and neo-prog... all is in tune here.

This second Windmill's album features five tracks.,
all very good ones, IMHO.

The Windmill also know the importance of writing good lyrics and in this song deal with such a present-day theme as game addiction. The epic is divided into three parts and vocals are shared between Erik Borgen (Parts I-II) and Jean Robert (part III). That's an effective solution,IMHO, and after all these boys don't like rigid divisions when it comes to instruments and you'll often listen two guitars or two keyboards playing.  Another good reason to meet The Windmill.

Monday 12 January 2015

Remember The Future Part One (Nektar, 1973)

Nektar really is an unsettling band, so difficult to label. Even its nationality is disputable, as the band's members are mostly British, but the Group itself is based in Germany since its foundation. Their music is also a manifold one, including classic prog elements and many mainstream rock, pop and psychedelic hints. This track fills the first side of the original "Remember The Future" LP and it's an intriguing specimen of the early '70s music since the opening wa-wa guitar until the arcane, spacey closing section.

This war Nektar's fourth studio album.

You'll smell here the hippy atmosphere, a scent of acid trip, but you'll also enjoy very good melodies and many pleasant mood changes. This suite is divided into four parts (Images of The Past, Wheel of Time, Remember The Future and Confusion) and - as the title suggests - continues with Part Two on the LP's second side. If you'd like to spend 16 minutes or so in a visionary and colourful musical trip, this track is for you.

Sunday 11 January 2015

Seventy Five (Touch, 1969)

Here'a a very early example of prog rock (or of something very prog-like) coming from a USA band that only released one self-titled album in 1969. This 11 minutes song has all the main features of that kind of acid prog ravaging the Western World during the late '60s. Kingsmen's ex member Don Gallucci at keyboards and John Bordonaro's drums are the band's musical pillars, but I wouldn't forget the vocal performances of Jeff Hawks, as this song may prove.

Unfortunately, Touch disbanded soon after their debut album.

"Seventy Five" includes many tempo and mood changes, some lysergic, almost liturgical down tempo interludes and also a rather long instrumental section, where keyboards and guitars storm like hell, very well supported by the rythm section. Tracks like this one opened the doors to the forthcoming prog generation and even if Touch didn't become a successful act, they are not forgotten today. Not by me, at least.

Saturday 10 January 2015

The Road of Bones (IQ, 2014)

I really liked IQ's album "The Road of Bones" since I first listened to it. And I think its title track is one of the best songs in it. It's a perfect case of prog rock crescendo, coming out of a dark, scary mood and rising up to a full, energetic wall of sound. Peter Nicholls' voice leads this course, bringing out one of the best vocal performances in the band's history, from the softer tone to the most powerful singing. The rythm section also offers a remarkable contribution, including broken tempos matching with some intriguing Eastern xylophone effects.

"The Road of Bones" is IQ's eleventh studio album.

The lyrics are also gloomy, as they provide an inside look on a serial killer's life and feelings. That's why the crescendo here isn't a mere question of style, as it stresses the psycopath's perverse story:

The shadow crossed my face
All the features came to waste
Shallow graves I mark with stones
As I walk for the road of bones.

And when the wall of sound, the distorted guitars, the bombastic keys and all the rest come in, the listener actually sees the man going along his morbid path. Another magic and progressive spell.

Thursday 8 January 2015

Arco Iris (Estructura, 1980)

During the '80s, it was easier to find very good prog albums in South American Countries than in Europe. This is exactly the case with Estructura's self titled LP, including this "Arco Iris". Even if David Mamán's keyboards are definitely influenced by Rick Wakeman, this song is more than bombastic (and well played) keys. Firstly, I appreciate Antonio Rassi's guitars, giving an essential contribution to the big picture, then I won't forget María Eugenia Ciliberto's vocal performance, bright and strong as a prog rock voice should be.

This was the band's second (and last) studio cd.

The whole band offer a convincing proof of their prog (and rock) nature. The classic and delicate intro soon becomes an up tempo wall of sound, then a melodic sung theme and so many other things afterwards. No time for getting bored, my prog friends... just pure, enjoyable, plain prog. And if you find this too easy for your tastes, well, forgive me, but I like some catchy and sunny tunes now and then.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Un senso all'impossibile (La Maschera di Cera, 2006)

Among the many Fabio Zuffanti's projects, La Maschera di Cera found its way to my heart since their very first record. Even if I like all their works, my favourite one probably is "LuxAde", a concept album about Life and Death, loosely linked to the Greek myth of Orpheus. The whole album is a gem, IMHO, with the '70s taste that's this band's trademark, but the short suite "Un senso all'impossibile" (meaning "A Reason to the Impossible", some 10 minutes of length) is one of the most poetic and darkest symphonic tracks you can imagine.

"Luxade"was the band's third studio album.

This mini-suite is sharply divided into two sections called Teatro di follia and Il Ricordo ("Theatre of Madness" and "The Memory", respectively) There's an excellent main theme, a very melodic one, going through many variations and graced by a flute-driven arrangement. I also like the vintage keyboards sections, so close to my old Charterhouse friends, and still perfectly fresh and convincing. Despite the strong flute presence and the abundance of slow tempos, this track isn't a mellow one, and has a gloomy, suspended, original atmosphere. If you didn't know the band, that's an inviting gate to their music.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Another Friday Night (Hoggwash, 2007)

The Ukrainian keyboardist and singer Antony Kalugin, of Karfagen fame (see elsewhere in this blog), also created Hoggwash project, bringing on a somewhat easier side of prog, not too far from neo-prog sounds. This "Another Friday Night", taken from the album "The Last Horizon" develops such a musical concept in all its usual features and with the greatest care.

"The Last Horizon" was the debut album for Hoggwash.

The main theme is a captivating and melodic one, while the arrangements insist on modern key effects and a good deal of electric and acoustic guitars by Roman Philonenko, the band's co-leader. Some of the effects Kalugin displays here remind me of Polish band Collage, and the keen sound engineering surely is another strong point of this song. A pleasant listening, a well balanced track dealing with both vintage and contemporary prog, a humble and hopefully useful suggestion for my prog friends out there. 

Monday 5 January 2015

Gates of Darkness 1 (Art Zoyd, 1995)

I confess that some avant-garde tracks are beyond my weak comprehension and my frail musical culture. This is also true for many Art Zoyd's songs, but not for this one. "Gates of Darkness 1" (a "Gates of Darkness 2" also exists in the same o.s.t. album) is an arcane, mysterious, suspended track, with deals of experimental sounds and weird chord series, but nonetheless it is a charming, riveting piece of music. The first part has even a well found theme, whose variations are definitely clever and perfectly arranged in a sort of crescendo leading to an abrupt end.

After Art Zoyd's successful projects, many other prog bands
composed music soundtracks for silent films.

The second section of the track is mostly experimental, introducing a drumming-driven, scary ambient sound, perfectly into the movie this soundtrack was created for, the original 1926 silent film "Faust" by Murnau (the band had previously released a soundtrack for "Nosferatu", also directed by Murnau). But you don't need to actually see the film to appreciate the deep darkness of this music, even if the visual content surely empowers the alienating effect of the track. This is not something to sing along, as you can imagine, but this is what I'd call music for the mind.

Sunday 4 January 2015

Karn Evil 9 (Emerson, Lake & Palmer, 1973)

This suite split into three Impressions over the two sides of the Brain Salad Surgery album is one of the most popular and representative tracks of ELP. Rich and diversified, this song is an enthralling specimen of keyboard driven rock, but, of course, the three members of the band are all at their best and play as one, something the band used to do in their brightest days. See how each Emerson's touch is perfectly stressed by the rythmic section and how Lake's vocals seem to act as an addictional instrument.

I'm sure I saw those three guys somewhere...

The first Impression shows the rock side of the band, while the second one is a free, experimental piece and the final installment focuses on the trio's symphonic grandeur. I think the reason why most ELP's fans are fond of "Karn Evil 9" is in its three sided nature, displaying all the main features of the band. However, this surely is a breathtaking song, full of energy and colours, dazzling and overflowing. In a word, ELP.

Saturday 3 January 2015

Oda al Tulipán (Frágil, 1981)

Here you are a band from Peru knowing how to mix symphonic and pop arrangements. Take as a tester this track of their debut album "Avenida Larco". It's a diversified, flushing, still well organised track, where all instruments find their place, with the beautiful addiction of horns. The lyrics in Spanish are among the weirdest ones in the usually weird domain of prog lyrics, so I'll leave their interpretation to my smartest prog friends. For sure,the title means "Ode to The Tulip", and that's saying something.

After "Avenida Larco", the band released three more studio albums.

Anyway, the music is the strongest point here. A very good theme, a series of well played solos, an effective keyboard background, a naive, joyful mood everywhere. Those qualities made of Frágil a popular band in their own Country and recommend more attention to their music worldwide.

Friday 2 January 2015

Kuch Hai (Mizraab, 2004)

How many (metal) prog bands do you know coming from Pakistan? And how many good ones? May as it be, Mizraab are an excellent way into Karachi less known but interesting rock scene. As I'm not specially into prog metal, here you are a rather melodic song fron their concept album "Maazi, Haal, Mustaqbil " or, in Urdu alphabet, ماضی، حال، مستقبل , meaning "Past, Present, Future". I admire the suspenced mood of this track, and also the perfect mix of electric and acoustic guitars throughout the composition.

Mizraab are getting more and more popular in their own Country.

Even if this band has no keyboardist, the background effects are rich and arcane, with an intriguing pinch of Arab music inside. All the rest, however, is purely prog, paying respect to such masters as Rush and Dream Theater. That said, this band is highly original and offers its own blend of atmospheric, ethnic, bombastic and melodic rock. The composer, singer and guitarist Faraz Anwar surely has a lot of strong ideas, an eclectic voice and plays guitar very, very well, as the solos of this track will prove even to the most demanding prog lovers. Enjoy.

Thursday 1 January 2015

The Lie And The Liar (Ageness, 2009)

Pleasant, sweet but never sweetish, Ageness' music seems to me a sensible compronise between neo-prog melodies and symphonic rock arrangements. These Finnish musicians like IQ and Marillion, but also Rush and Genesis (Igeness would have been a perfect anagram of the latter), so their music is well balanced and doesn't sound monotone at all. I like their largos and the skilled guitar solos  by Speedy Saarinen (once again, nomen omen...).

This album came after an eleven years hiatus. It's the last one to date. 

But then, this is a mature track, coming from the band's fifth studio album,"Songs from The Liar's Lair", showing how much a well attended musical clockwork can be refined year after year. This doesn't mean Ageness are a cold hearted band: they always add the right dose of soul and emotions to their best songs - such as this one - and the vocal performance is an excellent way to succeed in this. A very good and captivating way to prog, I'd say.