Album Review: Iako Bei – Pursuits in 1ife

Iako Bei Pursuits in 1ifeIako Bei, Pursuits in 1ife, 2018, 

Tracks: We’re Building Our Own Monument (5:58), A Way To Oppose (3:52), Living In Fear (4:54), Pilgrim In Doubt (5:33), Missing Colours (8:57), Fake (The New Kind Of Beauty) (4:36), Don’t Give Up That Dream (4:48), Cortex Labyrinthus (14:50)

Slovakia’s Iako Bei takes a unique and somewhat gutsy approach in making a rock album: they completely abandon the guitar in favor of a saxophone. Listening to Pursuits in 1ife, you’d never miss the guitar. The songs are well crafted, the bass lines provide a needed crunch, and the saxophone adds that gentle soothing touch that I’ve always appreciated in the bands that make use of the instrument.

While the band is a five-piece group comprising a saxophonist, bassist/lead singer, keyboardist, drummer, and backing vocalist, it is primarily the project of bassist and singer Roman Jakobej. The instrumental sections really stand out. The arrangements are interesting, and the saxophone really soars in these sections. Because it can be such a loud instrument, it naturally has to take more of a back seat when Roman is singing, even though it does remain present. Nevertheless, the interplay between the saxophone, bass, and drums is particularly strong during instrumental passages.

Even though there is no electric guitar present, the different effects used on the bass guitar create a really unique sound that fills in for the guitar at points, particularly on “Missing Colours.” The piano work on that song also adds a nice touch. Even though the saxophone largely replaces the guitar throughout the album, the bass shines on this song. This track is particularly melancholic, and the bass contributes to that. When the saxophone finally comes in, it compounds that feeling. It really draws everything together.

Lyrically, the band fits in with many European bands’ recent call to action regarding the direction western societies are headed. This is more Marillion’s Fear than Andy Tillison’s “A Few Steps Down the Wrong Road.” The opening track acts as a call for all of us to wake up and see what our society has become. The band sees arrogance, selfishness, and greed as driving forces of destruction. Indeed, the band precisely identify our society’s main ills in the lyric “Flames of lust and flames of greed” in the opening song.

Overall I hear no glaring weaknesses in this project. It is a solid album that takes a unique approach at rock music. Definitely check this group out. The band excel musically and lyrically, and the songs are well-crafted.

https://www.facebook.com/iakobei/

Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19

Steve Hackett, Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI, October 3, 2019
Band:
Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan, Craig Blundell, Jonas Reingold, Rob Townsend, Roger King

Setlist:
Set 1
Every Day
Under the Eye of the Sun
Fallen Walls and Pedestals
Beasts in Our Time
The Virgin and the Gypsy
Tigermoth
Spectral Mornings
The Red Flower of Tachai Blooms Everywhere
Clocks – The Angel of Mons

Set 2
Dancing With the Moonlit Knight
I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)
Firth of Fifth
More Fool Me
The Battle of Epping Forest
After the Ordeal
The Cinema Show
Aisle of Plenty
Deja Vu
Dance on a Volcano

Encore
Los Endos

I had been looking forward to this concert ever since I bought tickets at the beginning of the year. I had never seen Steve Hackett live, but it had been at the top of my bucket list for a while. He’s my favorite guitarist, and I’ve loved all of the recent Genesis Revisited live albums. I consider Selling England By the Pound to be one of the finest albums ever made, so I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to see Mr. Hackett and company perform it live. They didn’t disappoint.

During the first half of the show, the band played highlights from Hackett’s 1979 solo album Spectral Mornings and this year’s At the Edge of Light. The whole set was very strong, but I particularly enjoyed Craig Blundell’s drum solo. Some drum solos can be a little boring, but not this one. Very engaging, interesting, and complex. The opening “Every Day” really highlighted the light and airy style of Hackett’s solo music, while “Beasts In Our Time” showed how heavy his music can be. Jonas Reingold’s bass was exceptional all night, but the bass line on “Under the Eye of the Sun” really allowed his talent to shine.

Continue reading “Steve Hackett Sells England By the Pound – Live at 20 Monroe Live, Grand Rapids, MI – 10/3/19”

Riverside to Release Special 2CD+DVD Edition of “Wasteland”

RIVERSIDE – Announce special 2CD+DVD edition of ‘Wasteland’ album and new Digital EP!

Final leg of “Wasteland” tour started!

Polish progressive Rock masters RIVERSIDE are pleased to announce a special edition 2CD+DVD version of the “Wasteland” album, scheduled for release on November 29th, 2019 via InsideOutMusic.

The ”Wasteland – Hi-Res Stereo and Surround Mix” 2CD+DVD will be released as Digipak format with Slipcase and includes a DVD bonus disc of “Wasteland” as Hi-Res Stereo 24bit version and as Surround Mix (4.1), plus 3 video clips. This special edition also contains 5 previously unreleased acoustic tracks/versions on a separate CD. Here is the exact tracklisting for the 3-Disc release:

CD 1 – “Wasteland” Album (50:58 min.):

1. The Day After (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (06:03)
3. Vale Of Tears (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (04:24)
5. Lament (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (09:32)
7. River Down Below (05:41)
8. Wasteland (08:25)
9. The Night Before (03:59)

CD 2 – “Acoustic Session” (26:48 min.):

1. Vale Of Tears – Acoustic (05:18)
2. Out Of Myself – Acoustic (03:57)
3. 02 Panic Room – Acoustic (03:26)
4. River Down Below – Acoustic (05:01)
5. Wasteland – Live Intro (09:00)

DVD (122:20 min.):

“Wasteland” Hi-Res Stereo (50:58 min.):
1. The Day After (Hi-Res Stereo) (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (Hi-Res Stereo) (06:03)
3. Vale Of Tears (Hi-Res Stereo) (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (Hi-Res Stereo) (04:24)
5. Lament (Hi-Res Stereo) (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (Hi-Res Stereo) (09:32)
7. River Down Below (Hi-Res Stereo) (05:41)
8. Wasteland (Hi-Res Stereo) (08:25)
9. The Night Before (Hi-Res Stereo) (03:59)

“Wasteland” Surround Mix (50:58 min.):
1. The Day After (Surround Mix) (01:48)
2. Acid Rain (Surround Mix) (06:03)
3. Vale Of Tears (Surround Mix) (04:49)
4. Guardian Angel (Surround Mix) (04:24)
5. Lament (Surround Mix) (06:09)
6. The Struggle For Survival (Surround Mix) (09:32)
7. River Down Below (Surround Mix) (05:41)
8. Wasteland (Surround Mix) (08:25)
9. The Night Before (Surround Mix) (03:59)

Video-Clips (20:24 min.):
1. Lament (Official Video) (06:11)
2. River Down Below (Official Video) (05:40)
3. Wasteland (Official Video) (08:33)

The 5 previously unreleased acoustic tracks/versions of the “Acoustic Session” will also made available as separate Digital EP on November 29th, 2019 as well.

RIVERSIDE checked in with the following comment about the upcoming releases:
And so we’ve been talked into this yet again 🙂 It’s our second encounter, after LFTM, with the surround sound. We’re hoping that revisiting this release in a different dimension will bring you a lot of joy and positive feelings, especially that we’re still touring with this material. As a bonus, we have prepared a few acoustic tracks in quite surprising arrangements. We’re hoping it will be an interesting experience :)“

The pre-order for both upcoming RIVERSIDE releases starts today and here:

“Acoustic Session” Digital EP:
https://Riverside.lnk.to/AcousticSessionEP

”Wasteland – Hi-Res Stereo and Surround Mix” 2CD+DVD:
https://Riverside.lnk.to/WastelandHi-ResStereoAndSurroundMix

Or order “Wasteland“ in its various formats here: https://Riverside.lnk.to/Wasteland

Check out the singles launched for RIVERSIDE’s “Wasteland” here:
“Lament”: https://youtu.be/4Wqlts7QWA8
“River Down Below”: https://youtu.be/ZS1crIkpnwc
“Vale Of Tears”: https://youtu.be/001IMO53JwY
And watch a live clip for “Wasteland” here: https://youtu.be/-ygv3BBqv3U

After a string of all sold-out shows in Poland, RIVERSIDE have now started the final leg of touring in support of their latest album “Wasteland”, which covers 8 dates across Germany and Luxembourg with Iamthemorning as support. Don’t miss out:

RIVERSIDE live 2019:
19.09 – Neuberinhaus, Reichenbach, Germany
20.09 – Freiheiz, Munich, Germany
21.09 – Jovel Music Hall, Münster, Germany
22.09 – Hirsch, Nürnberg, Germany
24.09 – KUZ, Mainz, Germany
25.09 – Kulturfabrik, Esch Sur Alzette, Luxembourg
26.09 – Substage, Karlsruhe, Germany
28.09 – Waschhaus, Potsdam, Germany
Tour trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NnstBLqM8U0

Progarchy’s End of Summer Round Up

There has been a lot of quality prog released this summer. Overall I’d say there isn’t as much top tier level stuff (i.e., albums that rank with some of the best ever made in the genre), but there have been a lot of solid albums worthy of your attention released lately. This list won’t be exhaustive, but it should be a good starting point for people looking for some new music. Order is completely arbitrary. Ok maybe this first one is at the top for a reason.

Nad Sylvan – The Regal Bastard

Steve Hackett’s touring vocalist released his best solo album to date this summer. It is a little more accessible than the first two albums in the Vampirate trilogy, but it retains some of the same themes and motifs. Sylvan has a lot of talent, and this album stands above the crowd this summer. If you only listen to one album off this list, choose this one. And check out my interview with Nad from earlier this summer: https://progarchy.com/2019/06/30/the-vampirate-speaks-a-conversation-with-nad-sylvan/

Tool – Fear Inoculum

I’ve only ever passively listened to Tool, but I found this album to be quite good. Was it worth the wait for diehard Tool fans? I’m not sure, but this is a solid album that is heavy without being overpowering. Check out Rick Krueger’s review: https://progarchy.com/2019/09/01/tool-fear-inoculum/

Continue reading “Progarchy’s End of Summer Round Up”

A Conversation with Brett Kull of Rise Twain

Rise Twain, Rise Twain, Inside Out (2019)

Tracks: Everspring (3:22), Golden (6:11), The Range (4:42), Lit Up (5:03), Death of Summer (6:29), Oh This Life (3:12), Prayers (4:48), Falling Skies (05:49), Into A Dream (5:39), That Is Love (5:03)

 

On September 6, Rise Twain will release their first album on Inside Out. Made up of singer-songwriting duo Brett William Kull (of Echolyn) and J.D. Beck (The Scenic Route), Rise Twain’s self-titled debut brings emotion, gentleness, and powerful songwriting to a year that has been filled with excellent music.

From JD’s soulful voice, which instantly reminded me of the Casey McPherson or Matt Bellamy, to his wonderful piano work and Brett’s excellent guitar, this album delivers without overpowering. As Brett and I talked about in the interview below, this album has a lot of dynamic range, which makes for a very enjoyable listening experience. It has its heavy moments, but the quiet moments often steal the show. This is a great rock album in the tradition of lyric-oriented popular rock songs. The lyrics have great depth to them. They keep me engaged on repeated listens, and I’m sure they will for many listens to come. Rise Twain are not to be overlooked – check this group out when the album drops in a few days.


I had the great opportunity to speak with Brett Kull via Skype on August 21. Unfortunately I’ve been very busy, so it has taken me a while to transcribe everything. Originally I was supposed to speak with both Brett and JD, but JD’s son had an emergency tooth surgery come up at the last minute – we certainly wish JD and his son the best on his recovery for that.

I had a great time talking with Brett. I found his passion for his craft to be incredibly inspiring, and I hope all of you do as well. Our conversation ranged from discussion of the album to their writing process to the more technical side of producing music. We even talked about the very nature of progressive rock itself, which is always a fun ongoing conversation in our little corner of the music world.

Continue reading “A Conversation with Brett Kull of Rise Twain”

Going All the Way Back With @bigbigtrain

The title of this post is more dramatic than it should be, but I randomly decided to listen to Big Big Train’s first album, Goodbye to the Age of Steam, this afternoon. Early Big Big Train gets very little press these days, yet this album is quite good. There are obvious differences between the Big Big Train of the early 1990s and the Big Big Train of 2019, yet there are still similarities. Spawton’s writing style is instantly familiar, with his lyrics as good as they’ve ever been. The gentle piano moments certainly remain in today’s version of the band, and the guitar work has similarities, even with different musicians. Yes, this album is a bit more synth heavy in places, but that seems to be more of a Neo-prog influence from the 1980s than anything else. The vocal harmonies on “Blow the House Down” are exceptional, reminding me very much of Moon Safari. I’d love it if the band incorporated more of that.

This album is as old as I am, and while I can act like a grumpy old man at times, this album still sounds remarkably fresh. The current iteration of the band has toyed with live re-workings of pre-Longdon songs, such as “Wind Distorted Pioneers” on Stone and Steel and “Summer’s Lease” (off of The Difference Machine) on 2018’s Swan Hunter EP. It was interesting to hear the current version of the band put their own spin on the music, as opposed to creating a verbatim recreation. And so in 2019, the 25th year since the release of Goodbye to the Age of Steam, I would be interested in hearing the band re-visit some of these songs, perhaps in a live setting or a live-in-studio setting.

These are good songs, and they sound great on the original album. Since the band is firing on all cylinders these days, it would be a treat to hear them interpret this music, especially since only one member remains from the 1994 line-up. Imagine what Rachel Hall could add with her violin and her beautiful voice. Think of the brilliant guitar solos Dave Gregory could bring to the table. David Longdon could bring an entirely different sound to these pieces, allowing us to hear them in a whole new light.

Do I think the band will actually do this? Not really. They have so much material from the current version of the band, and they and the fans are much more familiar with those songs. It may not make financial sense for them to spend the time and money to re-visit these early songs, but maybe we will get a couple more re-recorded and re-interpreted over the next few years. Whether the band chooses to celebrate the anniversary of this release or not, it is definitely worth listening to again. Even if it isn’t quite as good as their output over the last decade, it is still a solid album by any prog standards.