My nano-review of Tin Spirits: Scorch

Completely brilliant.

Buy it.

Now.

That is all.

 

EDIT: No doubt my erudite co-progarchists will wax lyrical on this release in the near future. I rate it ‘splendid’.

 

 

Chevelle – “La Gárgola”

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Chicago rock band Chevelle released their seventh studio album back in February of this year, and boy is it good. Don’t get me wrong, in the fifteen years since their first album, Point # 1, Chevelle has yet to release a bad album. La Gárgola (which means the gargoyle in Spanish) just happens to be amazing. While Chevelle isn’t prog, it is certainly very good hard rock/metal music. Interestingly enough, they have been compared to Tool for years, so they sort of have a Prog connection, although I don’t really hear the similarity. Chevelle has also released a few “concept” albums, most notably 2009’s Sci-Fi Crimes and 2014’s La Gárgola. By concept, I mean the whole album more or less revolves around a particular theme. In Sci-Fi Crimes, it was aliens, supernatural beings and other cool stuff like that. In la Gárgola, it loosely draws upon themes that a gargoyle might conjure up.

So who are Chevelle? Pete Loeffler – guitars and vocals. Sam Loeffler – drums. Dean Bernardini (Pete and Sam’s brother-in-law) – bass and backup vocals. Chevelle has always been a family affair, with Pete and Sam’s brother Joe originally playing bass for the band until 2005. All are very proficient with their instruments, and Pete’s voice is incredibly unique. He has a great range, and when he screams, it is not “cookie monster” screaming. His screams come from passion and anger, and never just to please screamo fans (Chevelle in no way, shape, or form resembles anything remotely related to screamo). His voice, instead, is very mellow yet powerful. One of the things that I like best about Chevelle is they, unlike many metal bands, are not obnoxiously or overly loud. While they are loud, you can still hear each individual instrument, which is great for someone like me who loves to hear and feel the bass. It’s also difficult to believe that their sound can only come from three musicians, because the interplay between the guitars, bass, drums, and Pete’s voice make it sound like so much more. Very impressive indeed.

LaGargola

Earlier I said that Chevelle have yet to release a bad album. While I believe this is true, I think that La Gárgola is their best album since their second album, 2002’s Wonder What’s Next, which was brilliant in its heaviness. 2007’s Vena Sera came close (in fact it is probably their most popular album), but La Gárgola is the only album to equal Wonder What’s Next. This album beautifully combines elements from each of their albums. It brings in the raw edge from their first album, the heaviness from their second, third, and fourth albums, the idea of a “concept” and the ability to do quieter songs from Sci-Fi Crimes, and the drive of 2011’s Hats Off to the Bull. It is as if Chevelle took the best bits from their past and matured into a totally new sound that is still very familiar.

La Gárgola also sounds more technically complicated than their previous albums, especially in the percussion department. Sam (and Dean, who recorded drums on one of the songs) certainly experimented with different drum sounds and instruments. The guitar takes you on all kinds of wild adventures throughout the album, but the driving bass keeps you grounded. From songs like “Take Out the Gunman,” which addresses the recent media attention at different mass shootings, to “One Ocean”, which is by far Chevelle’s best quiet(er) song, it is hard to get bored listening to this album. La Gárgola has so much to offer, from heavier metal songs typical of past Chevelle albums, to quieter rock songs which force you to really think about what is being said.

One of Chevelle’s best traits is the lyrics, written mainly by Pete Loeffler. Unlike so many rock bands, who are blatantly obvious with what they are talking about in their songs, Chevelle’s lyrics are cryptic, yet simple with repetition of certain lines throughout the song. I know some people don’t like repetition, but the way in which Chevelle work it, it really doesn’t feel like there is any repetition at all. While some bands use expletives to convey that they are… well, pissed off, Chevelle conveys that through tone of music and lyrical undertones. Chevelle rarely swears in their songs, unless it is absolutely necessary, and none of their songs (in any album) are labeled as explicit. Also, Chevelle is not one to talk about relationships and dating and crap like that. They prefer to keep their lyrics conceptual and open to interpretation, which forces the listener to think. La Gárgola certainly continues the Chevelle tradition when it comes to lyrics.

While Chevelle certainly isn’t prog, they come close in many respects, and they deserve respect from progressive rock fans. Chevelle is one of several bands throughout the early 2000s, along with Disturbed, Avenged Sevenfold, System of a Down, Three Days Grace, and many others, who were able to keep rock and metal popular even while the musical atrocities of the pop and country genres rose in popularity. Chevelle have been very successful, yet they have never sacrificed what they do best – rock. So far, La Gárgola is one of my favorite albums of 2014, and I will certainly be listening to it for years to come. If you like metal, hard rock, and prog, give Chevelle a listen. They have many great songs across their expansive catalog, and their albums are a joy to listen to.

Interview with Seven Impale

Seven Impale - City Of The SunLast week on Progarchy I reviewed the new Seven Impale album, City of the Sun (http://progarchy.com/2014/08/21/seven-impale-basking-in-the-city-of-the-sun/).  It’s a tremendously creative record with energy to burn, worthy of the accolades it’s getting as its early September release date approaches.  The band graciously granted an interview, which I am including here and in the original review.

Progarchy: City of the Sun is an impressive full-length debut, following a fairly tremendous EP in Beginning/Relieve.  It feels like a leap forward.  How did you get from the EP to the LP, and what kind of progress has it been for the band?

Seven Impale: We feel that we’ve come far, both as musicians and composers, in the ~4 years we’ve been playing together. Even though it has only been a year since Beginning/Relieve was released, the material was made in the space between when the band was formed and when our current line-up had just been assembled. Wind shears, the second track on the album was actually composed around that time, but it’s been revisited and rearranged many times since then. The best thing is that we feel like the process has just started when we continue working together, making music that we enjoy, which challenges both the listener and us.

Progarchy: There is a lot going on in these songs.  What’s your writing process like, and how would you describe the narrative of the album?

Seven Impale: It differs a bit between the songs, but generally we start off with some guitar riffs or a rhythmic idea, and we jam for a while. Each of us gets to know the new parts and start to find our places, while we figure out what kind of musical landscape we are aiming for. And the songs take their form, one way or anther, often over the course of a few months.

Progarchy: City of the Sun makes the connection between modal jazz and heavy rock seem effortless.  The spirits of both inhabit this record seamlessly, as if John Coltrane and Deep Purple are smiling down benevolently.  This is what I hear, and it’s wonderful, but was this your intention?

Seven Impale: We have always enjoyed a lot of different music, but I think the progress and musical direction of Seven Impale has been more based on randomness than intentions. It has been our intention from the very start to make complex and exciting music, but the sound we have today has more to do with the individual musicians and what they bring to the table. A lot of details on the album came about through experimenting and/or “mistakes” during the recording process.

Progarchy: How did the band come together, what are your backgrounds?

Seven Impale: Fredrik and Benjamin are brothers (that’s the obvious one), and have grown up in the same area as Håkon and Tormod. The four of them have worked a lot together in various projects for a long time. Fredrik got to know Stian and Erlend through mutual friends, many years before Seven Impale, and the rest of the story is mostly random and about being at the right place at the right time, with the right instrument.

Progarchy: Is there a story behind the band’s name?

Seven Impale: Stian found the name before the band even existed. It came about kind of randomly when he was thinking about what to call the next project, and thought it has a nice feel to it. Also the number seven is often associated with religion, and the word “impale” brings more of a dark or heavy feel. And we are all somewhat critical towards religion, so it fits quite nicely.

Progarchy: What music are you listening to?

Seven Impale: We listen to a lot of different things, and we agree on most things musically. Stian has a bit more of the opera/classical music side, he is currently studying to be a classical singer. We listen to alt./prog rock like Mars Volta, King Crimson, Zappa, Motorpsycho and Porcupine Tree as well as heavier stuff like Tool, Pantera and Meshuggah. And then there’s the weird avant-garde/jazzy side of it, with Jaga Jazzist, TrioVD, Shining(NO), WSP, Ephel Duath, Nik Bartsch’s Ronin. In between there is some hip-hop: Hopsin, Side Brok, Bustah Rhymes and then there’s the electronic music like Noisia, Justice, Aphex Twin, Todd Terje and Venetian Snares.

Progarchy: Do you see yourselves as a Norwegian band, that is, do you have a sense that geography makes a difference in your music?

Seven Impale: Not really. But being from Norway means that we’re probably more exposed to and inspired by Norwegian bands, adopting what has been known to be the “Scandinavian sound”. Otherwise I don’t think it is significant, but what do we know?

Progarchy: Is there a city of the sun?

Seven Impale: There is a fictional book about a “City of the Sun”, by a 17th century Italian philosopher. In reality, I don’t think it ever will be.

Progarchy: What’s next for Seven Impale?

Seven Impale: Get rich or die tryin’

Progarchy: Please don’t die. We like your records too much.

Tillison Megafan Pre-pre-Orders

Nearly unstoppable in his Chestertonian genius, Andy Tillison is once again on the move.  

Evolving in what can only be considered punctuated equilibrium, our favorite redheaded English master of mischiveousness had not only just introduced the world to his new blog, http://www.thetangent.org/, he has also—as of yesterday—introduced the world to his new music, all of it in progress.

If you go to the official website, http://www.thetangent.org/, click on “shop,” and purchase the megafan pre-pre-release, you will immediately gain access to six new songs from Andy.

The three The Tangent songs are: A Spark in the Aether, Part 1; Codpieces and Capes; and A Spark in the Aether, Part 2.

The three pieces from the forthcoming solo album, “Multiplex,” are: Allegro; Andante; and Prosciutto.

I’ve only owned each of these six songs for less than 24 hours, but I’m already hooked.  If you properly assumed the genius of Tillison before today, be prepared to be even MORE impressed.

Sparks In The Aether – The Tangent Blog

bradbirzer:

Our great and brilliant friend, Andy Tillison, is blogging like the English madman he is! Join us in celebrating the mighty pen (and keyboard) of Mr. Diskdrive!

Originally posted on TheTangent.org:

        

BLOG Articles: Pens And Swords NEW – The Spiritual AtheistJustification For making Another AlbumAt The Sharp End Of A Legacy

Welcome to the Tangent Blog. It’s been a long time coming. Here I’m going to TRY to be good and continue the work that the band does on paper. or not on paper actually, but you know what I mean.  This can be translated as “I’m going to nag on and on about stuff that no-one is really bothered about” but it seems that that activity is quite the thing these days, so why shouldn’t I try?

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The Author with the only person he could get to listen that day.

The Tangent is a Progressive Rock Band. It tries to be be more than just that – which typifies the band as pretentious, full of its own self importance and  – well…

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The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill

In case you missed it, here is The Kate Bush Story: Running Up That Hill:

This documentary explores Kate Bush’s career and music, from January 1978’s Wuthering Heights to her 2011 album 50 Words for Snow, through the testimony of some of her key collaborators and those she has inspired.

Contributors include the guitarist who discovered her (Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour), the choreographer who taught her to dance (Lindsay Kemp) and the musician who she said ‘opened her doors’ (Peter Gabriel), as well as her engineer and ex-partner (Del Palmer) and several other collaborators (Elton John, Stephen Fry and Nigel Kennedy).

Also exploring their abiding fascination with Kate are some of the musicians who have been influenced by her (John Lydon, St Vincent’s Annie Clark, Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes, Tori Amos, Outkast’s Big Boi, Guy Garvey and Tricky) and some writers and comedians who admire her (Jo Brand, Steve Coogan and Neil Gaiman).

 



Elephant Talk: An Interview With Tony Levin

Levin-Brothers

Interview conducted via e-mail and reproduced below.

1. First of all, we at Progarchy would like to thank you for this opportunity. Many of us are big fans of King Crimson, Peter Gabriel, Pink Floyd, etc. We know you have a busy schedule, so I’ll keep the questions to a minimum. The 1950s was obviously a huge decade for jazz, featuring the talents of Miles Davis, Buddy Rich, and others of the cool jazz movement. What first attracted you to the jazz scene and do you have a preferred “style”?

It’s an interesting combination, me and Pete, because I’m primarily a rock player, who also plays jazz – while he’s a jazz player, who has played a lot of rock. So, Pete’s played in lots of jazz styles, on tons of records and tours. For me, I’m usually called in to a jazz album when they want it to be more like rock(!) But this time it’s us calling the shots, and we wanted to go back to the style we loved when we were kids just starting to play… the ‘cool jazz’ then may or may not have been ‘cool’, but it had melodic songs, and the solos weren’t as long winded as some other styles. In general it seemed less designed for the players, and more about having good writing, played well. So that’s what we aimed at with this album, hopefully giving the listener songs that’ll keep running thru their heads, and hopefully it’s music that has a classic element, and will sound as good 10 years from now as it does today.

2. What was the music scene like growing up in the 1950s Boston area and how much of an influence did it have on the you and your brother’s playing style?

When I was living in Boston I was only into Classical. There were great opportunities, and the Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra took me to Carnegie Hall and the White House. But it was after I left to go to school in Rochester that I started playing jazz and rock — so I wasn’t much influenced by what was going on at home.

3. This is your first time releasing an album with your brother Pete, an accomplished musician in his own right. Why so long a wait? What was the experience like?

We did release a single track way back years ago, and it was a comedy piece! Otherwise, we’ve played on each others albums and projects many times, but really this is the first time we sat down and said, let’s make this album together. Surprising it took us that many years to do it. (And hopefully it’s worth the wait!)

4. Listening to the audio sample on Youtube, I was impressed by the quality musicianship, but it was certainly unlike anything most of your fans have heard before. Most listeners are familiar with your work with Peter Gabriel and King Crimson. What can they expect from the Levin Brothers album?

Oh this is different for sure. What it’s about is; nice jazz songs, played well, with unusual instrumentation (a lot of my cello playing the lead, as well as Pete’s piano and organ, and Erik’s sax). The solos are short and each guy does his best playing, then moves on for somebody else.
Oh, there is one King Crimson song, Matte Kudasai, that we included so that folks might have one song they already know.

5. I also noticed from the Levin Brothers site that Steve Gadd, one of the world’s most renowned drummers, is featured as a guest on two songs. However, a few other musicians, perhaps not as well known, appear on the album. Could you briefly discuss the talents of Jeff Siegel, David Spinozza, and Erik Lawrence?

Jeff and Erik are great players that Pete has gigged with a lot though the years. Guitarist David Spinozza has been in a jazz band with me, called L’Image, for … well, ever since I can remember — we don’t do much touring or recording, but there’s a good musical comraderie, so he seemed the right guy to bring in. You’re right about Steve Gadd being renowned, and it was important to me to have him on the track “Bassics”, because he was instrumental in making me a jazz player, back in the 60’s when we were in music school together. So it just seemed right to have him on that piece, which is mostly bass playing the lead, with drums sharing the spotlight.

6. This album is a dramatic shift from your typical role in a progressive rock band. As you continue to play for prog rockers such as King Crimson and Peter Gabriel, do you see yourself continuing to work on more jazz related projects in the future?

I never have much idea what the future will bring, but my plan is to continue with Crimson and Gabriel, but Pete and I will not only continue to do the local gigging we’ve always done – we will certainly take the band from the album out on tour sometime in the next year.

7. How did the songwriting process go? I noticed all but one song (Matte Kudasai) is an original composition. Whose specific influence (if any) can we hear on this album?

Pete and I both wrote songs for it – once the style was set (and I was very focussed on the albums of Julius Watkins and Oscar Pettiford) it was fun coming up with songs. We wrote more than we needed for the album, but also we kept the tracks short, on both the CD and LP, so we could fit many more songs on than is usual.
Incidentally, it was a longtime wish of mine to release a real vinyl album, and this was surely the right time for it – so we’re loving having the big artwork and vintage back cover on the vinyl version. Of course, as is standard nowadays, it comes with a download card for digital versions of all the songs.

8. Finally, do you plan on doing any touring once the album is released. I understand King Crimson is about to go on tour again, but will fans be treated to any live performances by the Levin Brothers in the near future?

Yes, as I mentioned before, I’ve got some Crimson and Gabriel tours to do this Fall, but next year we’ll also do some Levin Brothers jazz club dates for sure.

Best of luck on this album Tony and Pete. And one more question, if you don’t mind. A few of my fellow Progarchists (myself included) were wondering: where and when did you pick up the Chapman Stick? tony-levin-chapman-stick

Thanks, Connor. The Chapman Stick appealed to me as soon as I heard it, as a way to play my bass parts in a different way than normal. In prog music, I’m usually looking for those subtle things that move my playing forward. I never imagined, in my first years with the instrument, that I’d eventually play the guitar strings on it too, and form a group (“Stick Men”) that I now tour with more than any other group. It’s been a really rewarding experience for me.

For more information regarding the album:

http://thelevinbrothers.com

A Love of Lingering: Salander’s STENDEC (2014)

A review of Salander, “STENDEC” (2014, independent release). Tracks: Pearls Upon a Crown; Book of Lies; Ever After; Hypothesis 11/8; Situation Disorientation; Controlled Flight Into Terrain; and Zeitgeist. Total time: 65 minutes.  Recommendation: HIGHEST; MUST OWN

Salander's second album of 2014: STENDEC.  Even better than the amazing first album.

Salander’s second album of 2014: STENDEC. Even better than the amazing first album.

From the moment I first heard “CRASH COURSE FOR DESSERT” by Salander, I knew I not only loved the music, but I also knew I would love the musicians as well.

And, so it came to pass.

A rather significant part of my 2014 has been the sheer joy of getting to know Dave Smith, one of the two Daves who make up Salander. Sadly, I’ve not had the chance to get to know Dave Curnow, the other Dave, but I trust the judgment of the first Dave. So, per my respect of Dave, Dave must also be great.

Ok, now I’m getting confused.

There are a thousand things to appreciate about Salander. First, the level of professional artistry is as good as it gets. The two Daves not only play each of the instruments on the album, they do so with elegance and perfectionism.

Second, the lyrics move and flow powerfully as an integral part of the entire art. These are not add ons, nor are they the rock equivalent of an “um” or an “err”: “baby, baby.” No, these are fine, deep, thoughtful words integrated with the notes and the lines.

Salander and the two Daves: Words, notes, lines.

Third, Salander are willing to linger. That is, they take their time to build their art, to build anticipation, and to explore an idea. Rushed, hurried, and superficial are not descriptions applicable to anything this extraordinary band does.

Beginning with Spirit of Eden-esque sounds of nature, cries, pings, wind, and waves, the opening track, “Pearls Upon a Crown,” lingers and hovers for almost six full minutes.  Very Talk Talkish, it also reminds me of the best of Pure Reason Revolution and Spiritualized. Space rock atmospherics at its best. A gorgeous Gilmour-like guitar comes at 2.59 into the music, but no vocals emerge until 5.57.

The words open with a Socratic moment: “Can you feel the power.” Essentially, the Daves ask, how far can you allow your imagination to soar? And, will you trust your deepest and best part to another?

Regardless of style, Salander has invited you into their art.  The choice to enter is yours.  But, once you’ve accepted, there’s no turning back.  Indeed, no mere sprinkling or christening here.  They demand full immersion.

The second track, a bitter folkish wall of sound tale of deception, is as epic as the first track. At 11 minutes, “The Book of Lies” again shows Salander at its most diverse and epic. 

The third track, a much sweeter (or so it seems, musically) take on life and music, “Ever After,” takes us back to the end of “Pearls.” Who do you trust, and how far are you willing to trust that person with what matters most to you?

Not surprisingly given its title, “Hypothesis 11/8,” the fourth track is instrumental and serves as the perfect interlude for this rather heavy album. The first minute has a Vangelis feel to it, and it could certainly serve as the cinematic soundscape to much of Blade Runner. The final three minutes of the four-minute track allow the two Daves to demonstrate their excellence at drums, bass, and guitar. This is really prog at its finest. Listening to this track for the twentieth time or so, I’m still reminded of Cosmograf in terms of expertise and craft.

“Situation disorientation,” the fifth track, follows the interlude with more atmospherics slowly resolving into an angsty and contemplative space rock song, pulsating and pounding by its end. The lyrics swirl around a love affair gone terribly wrong, with the protagonist plagued with guilt, pride, and doubt.

The longest song of the album, “Controlled Flight Into Terrain,” comes in at just under fourteen minutes. The Daves have broken it into four sections, the name of the album coming from section three, STENDEC. Interestingly enough, STENDEC was the last word coming from a Chilean plane that mysteriously disappeared in 1947. Over the last seventy years, STENDEC has become synonymous with UFO abduction. The story and riddle of the word fits perfectly with the themes of the album: confusion, gravitas, and loss. Section III, STENDEC, is perfectly creepy, spooky, and claustrophobic.  It gives me chills with every listen.

The album concludes with “Zeitgeist,” a tune that could have come out of the best of rock’s moment of New Wave in the early 1980s and the walls of sound of the end of that decade. As with Salander songs, the vocals are captivating, demanding the full attention of the listener. The song’s lyrics deal with the mystery of time and the loss of the past without surety of the future. Rather brilliantly, Salander presents a wall of sound, full of anxiety, with heavy but tasteful guitar and a lush angelic background soundscape.  Of all the songs here, this is the most reminiscent of the best of their first album.

I’ve had a copy of STENDEC for almost two months, and I’m sorry I’ve not had the chance to review it before now. But, it’s an incredibly important album, and it deserves as much attention as possible, inside and outside of the prog community. Without question, this is one of the best albums of the year. No person who loves prog or music should not include this in her or his collection. Certainly, a must own.

STENDEC also caught me by surprise, coming out so closely following the release of CRASH COURSE. I gave CRASH COURSE my highest recommendation. Amazingly enough, STENDEC is even better, as it’s even deeper and more coherent as an album. Even after 20 or so listens, I’m still stunned by its excellence and the ability to draw me into and immerse myself in the album. While I don’t want to seem greedy, it would be an understatement to state: I can’t wait to see what album three will bring.

To order it, please go here.

On the Channel Islands, Neil Peart Wrestles with Determinism

Originally posted on rush vault:

Mu Inspiration Point

My Inspiration Point

neil-

Neil’s Inspiration Point

Neil has updated his blog with a post about two adventures he took earlier this summer to the Channel Islands, which are about a dozen miles off the Southern California coast. The post, called “Magnetic Mirages,” caught my attention because I had been to the Channel Islands myself at around the same time, and although our paths didn’t cross, I was interested to compare his notes with my own.

His adventures were a little more . . . adventurous, to say the least, since he got there by hitching a ride on the boat of his motorcycle buddy and security chief, Michael, while I just hopped on a tour boat. And he went to four of the eight islands, and I only went to one, Anacapa. (See “Inspiration Point” pictures.)

Neil's lens

Neil’s lighthouse lens

My lens

My lighthouse lens

Comparing notes was interesting but what caught…

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And the Prog Rock God of 2014 Is…

gabriel

http://prog.teamrock.com/news/2014-08-21/peter-gabriel-is-prog-god-2014

A well deserved honor, in my humble opinion.

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