LearningToDive Make a Splash with Their Debut Album

Atmospheric and brooding, LearingToDive bring a fresh sound to a synth sound. There are elements of rock and pop, but this is a subdued album with swirling and gentle sounds. UK-based journalist Chloe Mogg has more below:


By Chloe Mogg

Musical enigma LearningToDive are ready to rock the boat with the release of debut album Norweigan PopA true love letter to the 80s, Norweigan Pop is a lineup of 11 stunning tracks full of Synth-Pop sounds and Post-Punk style. Reminiscent of New Romantic giants such as Duran Duran, the eclectic Norweigan Pop project touches on hot topics from personal, political and societal ideas to themes of hope and betrayal.

LearningToDive is the latest project from musical maverick and New Zealand based Bravo Bonez. Bravo is a well rounded talent, proficient in production, composition and musicianship there’s  few things Bravo Bonez has yet to try his hand at. The LearningToDive project is Bravo’s latest and possibly greatest musical identity, stylistically unique compared to his other ventures the LTD sound touches on the more serious aspects of Bravo’s life.

The Norweigan Pop album follows Bravo’s journey of self-reflection and discovery, a musical rollercoaster of deeply layered textures and melodies that form a backdrop to Bravo’s lyrical soul searching. The project was impacted by Bravo’s love for the 80’s greats, from Roxy Music, the Psychedelic Furs, Echo & The Bunnymen and even Iva Davies (Icehouse), It’s no surprise that the LearningToDive debut has a distinctly nostalgic feel to it.

Since bringing us the very first LearningToDive single “High & Dry” in November of 2020 Bravo has quickly established himself as one to watch on the scene. Bringing back a New Romantic sound from decades past, LearningToDive takes a new spin on modern music, and fans can’t get enough of it.

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/learningtodive/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/learningtodive/?hl=en

Website: http://learning2dive.com/

Soundcloud:  https://soundcloud.com/user-718196749 

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/63TsRGNIoI5mNK2s4BDjuP?si=5TytUWvuRWGtuQ5ToCK0PA

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCf4AaCSYnX748ZBHmqFrzpg

In Concert: Todd Rundgren’s Clear Humanity

With multiple attempts at a 2020-21 tour yanked out from under him, Todd Rundgren has pulled a fresh concept out of his back pocket in turn. In lieu of a one-off worldwide livestream, Rundgren kicked off the “Clearly Human Virtual Tour” on February 14.

Sporting a setlist focused on the ambitious 1989 album Nearly Human, Rundgren and his 10-piece band (including bassist Kasim Sulton and synthesist Gil Assayas from the 2018 Utopia reunion tour) are now midway through a 25-date residency in Chicago; original talk of limiting each show’s streaming market via “geofencing” quickly gave way to a few visual and verbal nods to a different city each night. Intrigued, I ponied up $40 for February 25’s “Indianapolis” show; for more cash, you could control what camera angle you were seeing, order the usual merch, have your face projected onto video screens the band can see, or even attend in person (the last option subject to being one of 19 people to pay VIP prices, then pass a COVID test within 72 hours of the show).

It’s a great concept: cutting down overhead by staying in one place, Rundgren has added a horn section (Steven Stanley on trumpet and Nearly Human sax man Bobby Strickland), three backup singers (Nia Halvorson, Grace Yoo and Todd’s wife Michele), guitarist Bruce McDaniel and second keyboardist Elliot Lewis to his usual rhythm section of Sulton, Assayas and drummer Prairie Prince. The musical results all night were pretty marvelous, ranging from a smooth purr to a raucous roar, with lots of guts and grace to spare. Pin-sharp after two weeks with the material, the band eagerly powered through most of Nearly Human plus selected classics from the 1970s (the 10-part vocalese in “Can We Still Be Friends” was downright awe-inspiring), a few Utopia tunes and later R&B-inflected gems (with the precision funk of 2nd Wind’s “Love Science” and the slow burn of “God Said” from 2004’s Liars proving especially effective). Rundgren’s occasional forays into lead guitar on his iconic green instrument “Foamy” were spaced out for maximum impact; the rest of the time he stalked the lip of the stage, strutting his stuff while the players did their thing. His obvious delight in his “nebbish as soul man” persona was utterly endearing — and once he shucked his suit jacket to reveal a bit of a pot belly and comfy athletic shoes, you were in on the joke as well.

The only weak link, for this show at least, was Rundgren’s voice. His melodies, especially on his soul material, are fairly fearsome, multi-octave constructions; they require a sturdy vocal instrument, a comprehensive range, consistent breath support, and lots of stamina! On this night, Rundgren’s bottom and top were strong, but a little phlegmy and forced, and the midrange between the two was unsteady to the point of outright disappearance at times — including during the opener “Real Man”. (l’ve had to sing for numerous worship services or concerts with a dry throat, sinus congestion or a cold, and I think that’s what may have been going on. Take it from me, it ain’t much fun.) Previous reports have found Todd in great vocal form on this tour (and Cirdec Songs’ Cedric Hendrix reported that he was up to snuff for the next night’s show); hopefully, this was a one-time glitch that some rest — or maybe hot tea and honey — fixed! And in my book, Rundgren earned “show must go on” bonus points for his perseverance in difficult circumstances.

In short, Todd Rundgren’s come up with an enjoyable cure for the no-concert blues — one that, even on a bit of an off night, was highly effective, impressive and fun! If it’s been too long since you rocked out in your favorite venue, I recommend you check out the remaining livestream dates for the “Clearly Human Virtual Tour” at NoCap Shows.

— Rick Krueger

Setlist:

  • Real Man
  • Love of the Common Man
  • Secret Society (Utopia)
  • Something to Fall Back On
  • Parallel Lines
  • Unloved Children
  • Love in Action (Utopia)
  • Compassion
  • Can’t Stop Running
  • The Waiting Game
  • The Smell of Money
  • God Said
  • Love Science
  • Feel It
  • Sweet
  • Change Myself
  • Can We Still Be Friends
  • Lost Horizon
  • Rock Love (Utopia)
  • Hawking
  • The Want of a Nail
  • Hello It’s Me
  • I Love My Life

Steven Wilson Bites the Future… and the Fans?

Before we get into the review itself, I want to be clear that I have the upmost respect for Steven Wilson. No matter what I think of The Future Bites, I am not calling into question Wilson’s integrity as a musician, writer, producer, or artist. Everything he does, he does well. This go around he decided to make a pop album, and the pop world certainly has much to learn from Steven Wilson. This is pop in the vein of Tears for Fears or Talk Talk, so if you like those bands, you may like The Future Bites. I don’t particularly enjoy those bands, although I respect them. I also want to make clear that I don’t see what Wilson is doing with this album as being just like what Genesis did after Steve Hackett departed. Genesis sold out and started writing boring trash, both musically and lyrically. Wilson’s lyrics and themes on The Future Bites lead the listener to reflection. This is far from “selling out.” Watching some recent interviews with Wilson only confirmed for me that Wilson is an honest man. This album is incredibly self aware, which I’m sure made this a very vulnerable album for him to make. With all that said, let this long review begin.

Perhaps not surprisingly The Future Bites is doing rather well in the charts, particularly in the UK (number 4 overall as of this writing). It’s wholeheartedly a “pop” album, whatever that actually means. I recall thinking that 2017’s To The Bone was a pop album when it came out, but going back to it now I see that it has far more in common with Wilson’s previous solo work than it does with The Future Bites. There are a few moments on To The Bone that clearly connect with this album, but overall it was a rock album.

Contrarily the remnants of what could be called “rock” are pretty much gone on The Future Bites. That doesn’t necessarily mean Wilson will never return to a traditional progressive rock sound, but he has said in interviews that he isn’t interested in making progressive rock music right now. As to why, well, we can only speculate. Some might say he’s making a lot more money doing this, but I don’t think that is what’s going on here. I think he’s tired of doing what he’s done before, and he’s pushing himself into new territory that reflects the kind of music he enjoyed when he was growing up. 

For the most part the album sounds quite stunning. Not musically. Musically it’s nothing special at all, like most pop. It’s still more musically exceptional than 99% of what passes for pop these days, but compared to an album like Hand. Cannot. Erase., it pales. The actual mixing of the record is quite fantastic, apart from the vocals on “Count of Unease,” which sound like they were recorded in a college dorm bathroom. This record is Wilson’s first time mixing in Dolby Atmos. I’d love to hear the album on a good Atmos system, but I don’t have one of those. Even so the regular stereo mix sounds crystal clear, and there is a lot of depth to the various sounds he employs.

It’s really many of those sounds he chose that I take issue with. He leans heavily into electronic music, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. One of my favorite newer bands, Oak, uses elements of electronic music, and I know Wilson has done that before in the past, but Oak and Wilson always left the rock elements in tact. Without the rock, it leaves much to be desired. I don’t know much about electronic music, but I know there are artists and composers who specialize in and excel at it. On The Future Bites it feels like Wilson is using the electronic aspects in the same way he has in the past, but without the rock the album feels like it’s missing something. The other issue I have with the record is some of Wilson’s vocals. 

Continue reading “Steven Wilson Bites the Future… and the Fans?”

New and Noteworthy on Bandcamp!

Nearly six months into the worldwide coronavirus epidemic, Bandcamp continues to be a lifeline for musicians.  Since March, fans have purchased more than $75 million worth of music and merchandise there  — including more than $20 million from four Bandcamp Fridays, when the website has waived its fees for artists and labels.  Last week, the announcement was made that Bandcamp Fridays will continue for the rest of 2020.

So (as your pocketbook permits), what’s worth your hard-earned cash on August 7, September 4, October 2, November 6, or December 4?  From my Bandcamp collection and wishlist, a few suggestions:

iatmw things unseenI Am the Manic Whale, Things Unseen:  I’m blown away by the energy, humor and sheer delight these young British proggers bring to their story-songs; this third album could be their best yet, with crystal clear production by Rob Aubrey.  There’s wickedly cheery satire in “Billionaire” and “Celebrity”, an atmospheric trip to Narnia in “The Deplorable Word” and unbounded joy at the gift of children in “Smile” and “Halcyon Days”.  Not to mention IAtMW’s very own train song, “Valenta Scream”, challenging Big Big Train with (in my opinion) the best lyrical simile of 2020: “Making it look so very easy/Eating up the distance like a cheese sandwich.”  Really.

 

mcstine minnemannMcStine and Minnemann: left-field, shreddy art-pop to get your adrenalin flowing. Randy McStine (guitars, vocals, other stuff) and Marco Minnemann (drums, vocals, other stuff) prove steady hands on the steering wheel for wild rides like “Your Offenses” and “Activate”, as well as the stark ballad “The Closer”.  Sure, the songs are short; they’re also stuffed to the gills with ethereal melodies and harmonies, woozily evocative lyrics, ear-grabbing riffs, impossible  drum fills, freaky collages of sound and radical mood shifts.  Don’t expect to focus on anything else while you’re listening to this — just hold on tight and have fun.

 

sancious eyes wide openDavid Sancious, Eyes Wide Open:  a charter member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, Sancious led the critically acclaimed trio Tone before tackling wingman duties for Peter Gabriel and Sting.  The focus of Eyes Wide Open (finished before lockdowns and protests swallowed news feeds whole) on today’s cultural unrest proves eerily prescient; the vocal tracks “Urban Psalm #3” and “If” and the instrumental “War in Heaven” are ambitious statements on universal human dignity that can lay claim to the moody, magnificent heights of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On.  Sancious sings on half the tracks and plays burning guitar and keys throughout, fusing jazz, rock and gospel into winning combinations, atop unbelievably funky drumming by Vinnie Colaiuta, Will Calhoun (Living Colour) and Michael Bland (Prince).  

 

spiraling transmitterSpiraling, Transmitter:  Back in the early 2000s, Tom Brislin (now tearing up the keys in Kansas) led this obscure, wonderful power-pop band in between side gigs with Meat Loaf, Yes and Camel.   On this re-release from 2002, Brislin’s sardonic, appealing vocal delivery perfectly matches the bone-dry wit of “The Girl on Top (Of the Piano)”, “The L Word III” and “(Get Your Own) Holy Grail”.  And the music is built to match: irresistible hooks, propulsive rhythms and riffs that take unexpected detours, every sonic crevice crammed full of nifty synth riffs, effects and solos.  This is unbelievably catchy, unbelievably sharp stuff.   (Check out Brislin’s new, punky public service announcement too!)

 

tmt still aliveTiger Moth Tales, Still Alive/A Visit to Rockfield:  This isn’t the Tiger Moth Tales album Peter Jones planned to release this year — but it’s definitely one that fits the moment.  His gift for melody and innate hopefulness gives these six new tracks (well, five plus a reprise) an effervescence and a glow that can warm the coldest heart.  There’s a beautiful, broad range of expression here, from the optimistic fortitude of the title track and the epic sweep of “The Mighty Fallen” to the rhythm box-laden goofiness of “Whistle Along.”   The bonus DVD features Jones and TMT in session at the legendary Rockfield Studios.  Enjoy this love letter to the world from deepest Nottinghamshire.

 

soft machine baked potatoMoonJune Records: Soft Machine’s Live at the Baked Potato is the latest release from global impresario Leonardo Pavkovic.  On this beauty, the Softs’ explorations are every bit as daring and delectable as when I heard them live in 2018.  Plus, there are plenty of other face-melting instrumental jazz/rock/avant/ethno albums coming soon from Stick Men, touch guitarist Markus Reuter, guitarist Mark Wingfield and a host of other international talents!  Watch for more news at the MoonJune Bandcamp page, or do what I did; subscribe and get everything MoonJune releases for a year!

 

— Rick Krueger

A Summer of Perfect Pairs

Submitted for your consideration: perfect pairs that have been engaging my two ears and two eyes for the past two months, recalled as a Michigan summer enters its last hurrah …

Three of A Perfect Pair: Live Albums

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I’m thrilled that Esoteric Recordings’ reissue series from British folk-proggers Renaissance now includes 1976’s Live at Carnegie Hall;  recorded over three sold-out nights at the legendary New York venue, this set has been a favorite since high school days.  It captures Renaissance’s essence: Annie Haslam’s clear soprano vocals soar over Michael Dunford’s spacious acoustic guitar, John Tout’s supple piano and keyboard work, Jon Camp’s agile bass and backing vocals and Terry Sullivan’s orchestral drumming.  Members of the New York Philharmonic join the band for most of the set, bringing out the delectable French and Russian flavors of extended classics like “Can You Understand”, “Running Hard” and the “Song of Scheherazade” suite.  A bonus disc of BBC session versions show that Renaissance could conjure up the same magic without the orchestra as well.  If you don’t know this worthwhile band’s music, Live at Carnegie Hall is a perfect introduction.

As is a pair of new live albums from the Norwegian trio Elephant9!  Recorded during an extended Oslo residency, Psychedelic Backfire I and Psychedelic Backfire II (the latter with Dungen guitarist Reine Fiske sitting in) are two sets of unremittingly scorching jazz-rock improvisation.  Organist/keyboardist Ståle Storløkken spins out one mesmerizing solo after another, whether by himself or trading licks with Fiske, while bassist Nikolai Hængsle and drummer Torstein Lofthus stoke relentless, hard-driving grooves.  Whether subjecting Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” to a Bitches Brew-era Miles-style breakdown or building unstoppable momentum on “Habanera Rocket”, the music captured here is endlessly inventive and thoroughly compelling.

Continue reading “A Summer of Perfect Pairs”

The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!

What new music, live albums, reissues (regular, deluxe or super-deluxe) and tours are heading our way between now and All Hallows Eve?  Check out the exhaustive (and potentially exhausting) sampling of promised progressive goodies — along with other personal priorities — below.  Click on the titles for pre-order links — whenever possible, you’ll wind up at the online store that gets as much money as possible directly to the musicians.

 

 

  • August:
    • Dave Kerzner, Static Live Extended Edition: recorded at the 2017 Progstock festival.  Kerzner’s complete Static album in concert, plus selected live highlights & new studio tracks.  Pre-orders ship in late August.
  • August 30:
    • Sons of Apollo, Live with the Plovdiv Psychotic Symphony: recorded at Plovdiv, Bulgaria’s Roman amphitheatre (the site of previous live efforts from Anathema and Devin Townsend).  Available in Blu-Ray, 3 CD + Blu-Ray, and 3 CD + DVD + Blu Ray versions.
    • Tool, Fear Inoculum: Tool’s first album in 13 years.  Available via digital download, as well as “a deluxe, limited-edition CD version (which) features a 4” HD rechargeable screen with exclusive video footage, charging cable, 2 watt speaker, a 36-page booklet and a digital download card.”  Really. 

Continue reading “The Big 2019 Fall Prog (Plus) Preview!”

In Concert: Olé ELO!

Jeff Lynne’s ELO, Van Andel Arena, Grand Rapids Michigan, July 23, 2019.

Parsing this band’s name closely pays off.  This isn’t an Electric Light Orchestra reunion by any means; rather, it’s reclusive ELO main man Jeff Lynne, touring North America with the music that made his bones for the first time in nearly 40 years.

Armed with fistfuls of Top 20 hits and key album tracks, Live Nation’s deep pockets, a dozen top-notch hired guns — including progressive rock role players Milton McDonald (Anderson Bruford Wakeman & Howe) on guitar and Lee Pomeroy (Anderson Rabin & Wakeman, Steve Hackett, It Bites, Headspace) on bass — and visual production rivaling Pink Floyd, Lynne delivered the goods to a pumped-up, near-capacity crowd Tuesday night.  Sure, the show was polished and manicured (and doubtless click-tracked and auto-tuned) within inches of its life — but it was also irresistible to the ears and dazzling to the eyes, an unalloyed pleasure from start to finish.

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kruekutt’s 2018 Favorites: Reissues

Following the jump, the reissues and compilations from this past year that:

  • For one reason or another, I absolutely had to buy (whether I previously had a copy or not), and
  • That grabbed me on first listen and haven’t let go through repeated plays.  Except for my Top Favorite at the end of the post, I haven’t ranked them — in my opinion, they’re all worth your time.  But first, a graphic tease …

 

Continue reading “kruekutt’s 2018 Favorites: Reissues”

If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley’s Golden Comeback

Fifty years ago today — December 3, 1968 — NBC aired Singer Presents … Elvis.  

At that point, Elvis Presley was generally considered a joke, a has-been.  His pioneering rock and roll days were long behind him, his singing and acting career and earning potential shriveled by a stultifying run of half-baked movies (Girl Happy, Harum Scarum, Clambake) and equally awful soundtracks (featuring horrid novelty songs like “There’s No Room to Rhumba in a Sports Car” and “He’s Your Uncle, Not Your Dad”).  Presley’s manager “Colonel” Tom Parker was pushing for a holiday special where Elvis would cavort with nominally famous guest stars and sing … wait for it … twenty Christmas carols.

But Singer’s execs had something else in mind: a show centered entirely on Presley, reminding the audience of his initial, explosive impact on pop music and propelling him forward, into a fresh phase of his career.  Elvis bought in, the Colonel signed off, and Steve Binder (director of the spectacular 1964 concert movie The T.A.M.I Show, featuring The Supremes, The Beach Boys, James Brown and The Rolling Stones in thrilling live performances) signed on.   Which is why, on that night fifty years ago, as 42 percent of the US television audience tuned in, they locked eyes with a man on a mission:

Continue reading “If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley’s Golden Comeback”

A Deeper Shade of White: Notes on “The Beatles”

In the 1997 movie Men in Black, Agent K (aka Tommy Lee Jones) spoke truer than he knew:

This is a fascinating little gadget.  It’s gonna replace CDs soon.  Guess I’ll have to buy ‘The White Album’ again.

Fast forward to the 50th anniversary Super Deluxe edition of The Beatles — my copy is #0112672, if you’re interested — my fifth purchase of the 1968 album.  Following the first CD release in 1987, Agent K’s prophecy was swiftly fulfilled, with 1998’s “30th anniversary limited edition” (CD #0438243), then 2009’s mono and stereo remasters each promising better sound and a more complete listening experience.  So does this new box provide anything previous versions haven’t?  And does it shed any new light on the “White Album’s” ultimate stature, both in the Fabs’ catalog and in rock history ?

Continue reading “A Deeper Shade of White: Notes on “The Beatles””