Tag: Flower Kings
Highest Prog Fantasy: Unfold The Future by the Flower Kings
A review The Flower Kings, UNFOLD THE FUTURE (2002; remastered and reissued, 2017). Tracks: The Truth Will Set You Free; Monkey Business; Black and White; Christianopel; Silent Inferno; The Navigator; Vox Humana; Genie in a Bottle; Fast Lane; Grand Old World; Soul Vortex; Rollin’ the Dice; The Devil’s Schooldance; Man Overboard; Solitary Shell; Devil’s Playground; and Too Late for Tomatos
Grade: A+. Glorious. Full. Enchanting. Mesmerizing.
As noted last week on progarchy.com, the Flower Kings released its first boxset, A KINGDOM OF COLOURS (Insideout Music), in very late 2017. Granted, we’re more than a bit late coming to the news, and I (Brad) only realized that the boxset had come out when seeing an advertisement for the forthcoming second boxset.
This set—a gorgeously packaged one at that—is part 1 of 2, re-releasing the band’s first official seven studio albums. Missing are any b-sides, extra tracks, live releases, and the album that started it all, Stolt’s 1994 solo album, THE FLOWER KING. But, these absences are certainly fine, as the boxset is what it is. The next set, according to Insideout, will have three full disks of new or previously unreleased material. Additionally and spectacularly, of those original albums re-released for A KINGDOM OF COLOURS, the final one, 2002’s UNFOLD THE FUTURE, has been completely remastered by the Flower King himself, Mr. Roine Stolt.
Continue reading “Highest Prog Fantasy: Unfold The Future by the Flower Kings”
The older I get, the more I love the past, even as I’m profoundly enjoying the present. 2017. It has a nice sound. 2017. Looking back over the years of which this current one is an important anniversary (ok, not the best writing in the world), I can’t help but think of several important years and albums that spring to mind immediately.
10 Years of PARADOX HOTEL (Flower Kings)
In just two days, one of my all-time favorite albums will turn 10-years old. Happy birthday, PARADOX HOTEL (Insideout Music, 2006).
I still remember well the day it arrived from amazon.com. I had thought the previous album, ADAM AND EVE, outstanding, but I was looking for something a bit more expansive in terms of music as well as lyrical scope. Given that this new album would be a return to a two-disk format, I’d assumed that Roine and Co. would not disappoint.
Not only did the band NOT disappoint, but they soared.
If forced to rank this cd within the Flower Kings’ discography, PARADOX HOTEL would sit very comfortably in the second best position, just below their best album, SPACE REVOLVER.
Interestingly enough, when PARADOX HOTEL came out, Stolt expressed some concern. Usually, a band hypes its latest album as its best (well, “hype” it too strong, as bands earnestly believe this to be true, as they should), but Stolt argued that he had thought the music of ADAM AND EVE more interesting and complex. Yet, the fans had not responded to ADAM AND EVE as the band had hoped, so they had returned to a poppier sound with PARADOX HOTEL.
As is always the case with The Flower Kings, the band alternates between incredibly complicated and tight jazz-fusion-esque music to more loose and open progressive-pop and rock. If ADAM AND EVE tended toward the former, PARADOX HOTEL certainly embraces the latter.
And, yet, while the complexity might not exist track by track, it does overall. It contains some of the darkest music the band has ever written, such as track seven on the first disk, “Bavarian Skies,” but it also reveals the most expansive and joyous the band has ever been with tracks such as “End on a High Note.”
This is a fascinating album in terms of its flow and its story. Though I do not know exactly what the album is about, I have interpreted it—from my first listen to it a decade ago—as a rather Dantesque examination of some form of purgatory. The Paradox Hotel is not quite the Mansion with Many Rooms of Heaven, but it is certainly a way station between this world and the next. After all, immediately upon checking in we meet monsters, men, U2 (I think, in “Hit Me With a Hit”), aviators, the young, Nazis, moms, the jealous, the violent, and the egotistical avaricious. Yet, through all of this, hope remains. Dreams and lights keep us centered on the end of the journey.
Disk two, by far the more experimental of the two disks, gives us even more glimpses of heaven, allowing us to touch, step toward, and dance in anticipation. Further, we learn that life will kill us and come to the nearly penultimate doubts in asking the most theological existential question ever offered: what if God is alone?
Finally, on track eight of disk two, we meet many of the dead who have moved through the hotel from time to time (or time to eternity, more likely), and we end with the glorious “Blue Planet,” seeing what voyages yet remain as we get caught in the revolving hotel doors.
It really could get no more C.S. Lewis and The Great Divorce or J.R.R. Tolkien and “Leaf by Niggle” than this. Indeed, if the Inklings had made prog albums, they would’ve made PARADOX HOTEL.
Or, maybe it really is a Swedish meditation on Dante’s Purgatorio.
Truly, this is some of the most satisfying, thought-provoking, and comforting music I have encountered in my own 48 years in this world. Yet one more reason to praise Stolt and Co. for the glories they see and reveal to all of us.
Forthcoming: The 10th Anniversary Review of PARADOX HOTEL
On April 4, 2006, the Flower Kings released PARADOX HOTEL, not just a seminal album for the band, but a seminal album for third-wave prog.
At the time of its release, Roine Stolt expressed some reluctance with the album, noting that it had not been as complicated, complex, or nuanced as the previous release, ADAM AND EVE (2004). PARADOX HOTEL, he sighed (or, so I’ve interpreted the interview he gave to/with DPRP.net), was just another release of a prog album, but not as progressive as the 2004 album.
While everything the Flower Kings does is excellent, it’s hard not to rate PARADOX HOTEL as extraordinary, even for an extraordinary band. In hindsight, PARADOX HOTEL is probably regarded as a much stronger album than ADAM AND EVE.
Regardless, we’ll be giving PARADOX HOTEL close scrutiny as we celebrate its tenth birthday.
The Tangent’s PYRAMIDS AND STARS, 10 Years On
There are few bands that perform as well live as they do in the studio. And, of course, there are some for which the opposite is true.
One band that only gets that much more interesting live is Andy Tillison’s ever-evolving The Tangent. This year, amazingly enough, is the tenth anniversary of the first live The Tangent release, PYRAMIDS AND STARS. Looking at the line up for that tour, one has to wonder if one is caught in some kind of heavenly time-loop or fantasy prog game. Andy Tillison, Roine Stolt, Jonas Reingold, Sam Baines, and Zoltan Csorsz. The lineup could be for a Flower Kings album or, perhaps, a Steven Wilson album.
The ever, endlessly talented Ed Unitsky painted the cover, and, of course, it’s gorgeous.
Only six songs make up this 77-minute feast: The World That We Drive Through; The Canterbury Sequence; The Winning Game; The Music That Died Alone; In Darkest Dreams; and the only song under six minutes in length, a cover version of (ELP) Lucky Man.
The songs—all of which come from the first two The Tangent albums—sound as gorgeous as Unitsky’s cover art would suggest. This is The Tangent, but it’s The Tangent fully alive. What happened in the studio is merely prologue. That the embryo, this the fine young man come of age.
Andy and Roine are especially playful and open to the spirit of the muses. Their love of this music is palatable.
Sadly, this live album is extremely hard to find, and I made it a point several years ago to dig deeply across and through the internet to find a copy. It was well worth the hunt, for I treasure this album like no other. It’s a precious thing to behold.
Happy 15th, Space Revolver
Is Sid Meier a fan of the Flower Kings?
I tried three times to make it through the movie Avatar. I never made it. Every time I came to the floating mountains, i wanted to scream as loudly as possible–you stole that from Roger Dean! And, the movie reeked, anyway.
I can’t say the same about Sid Meier. In his own way, he’s a genius. Needless to write, I was rather shocked when I saw the trailer for the forthcoming Meier game, STARSHIPS. Here’s a screen capture:
Now, check out the image from the cover of Retropolis by the Flower Kings.
Well, let’s hope this is just a case of admiration.
Roine Stolt in the World of Adventures: The Birth of Third-Wave Prog
The Flower Kings, BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES
1995 Foxtrot Music/Insideout Music
71 minutes; 10 tracks: Back in the World of Adventures; The Prince/Kaleidoscope; Go West Judas; Train to Nowhere; Oblivion Road; Theme for a Hero; Temple of the Snakes; My Comic Lover; The Wonder Wheel; Big Puzzle.
All lyrics and music by Roine Stolt (b. 1956).
In 1994, famed (justly so) Swedish guitarist, Roine Stolt, released a solo album under the title of the FLOWER KING. Less than a year later, he formed—around himself and the band he’d used for the FLOWER KING—the Flower Kings. It’s never quite clear who the FLOWER KING exactly is, but he seems be the embodiment of Jesus. Or, at the very least, a very peace loving Johannine hippie Jesus, and his betrayer is Judas Iscariot. In the opening song of the 1994 album, with the same name as the album, Stolt sings:
We believe in the light we believe in love, every precious little thing
We believe you can still surrender, you can serve the Flower King
And, in the grand song, “Humanizzimo,” Stolt becomes even more blatant:
Did someone pray for the long lost souls
or the tired ones who lost their goal
When the seventh angel rise his sword
Can you hear the one voice of the Lord
With the blood of Jesus on the nail
we turn the balance on a scale
In pain and fearless suffering
lies a message from the King of Kings
I don’t know if Stolt has any particular religious leanings, but he’s obviously very, very pro Jesus. At times I’ve wondered if he’s Roman Catholic, as he possesses a truly sacramental view of the world, but he might also—logically, given the Swedish background—be Lutheran. Again, I’m not sure labeling the song writer with any particular denomination totally matters. Stolt clearly loves what is humane, true, good, and beautiful, and his religious views are more poetic and mythic than “in your face.”
It would be hard to exaggerate the importance of the album to what we love as our current and overwhelming deluge of progressive rock. In 1990, prog looked pretty much dead as a genre. Sure, there were plenty of rock, pop, and so-called alternative bands—Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, Phish, and Smashing Pumpkins were the most obvious–employing aspects of prog, but almost no one admitted to the label.
Then, 1994 hit.
Marillion’s BRAVE and Roine Stolt’s THE FLOWER KING emerged as though from the gods themselves. How could these albums not be prog? They were as prog as prog could be. Unapologetically, blatantly, and deliriously prog. As our beloved progarchist friend, Andy Tillison, would later explain, this was the beginning of third-wave prog, a wave that has lasted for at least 19, maybe 20, years.
In many ways, though, 1994 would prove a trial run, a glimpse, merely, of what was coming. It was 1995 that witnessed the full arrival and onslaught of third-wave prog. Consider the releases: THE LIGHT by Spock’s Beard; AFRAID OF SUNLIGHT by Marillion; and THE SKY MOVES SIDEWAYS by Porcupine Tree.
And, of course, there was the first official Flower Kings’ album, BACK IN THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES. The title couldn’t be more perfect, and we might as well refer to it as the opening statement of third-wave prog. Stolt, indeed, was joyously leading us back to the adventure that had seemed to have fallen so undramatically in 1980 or so.
The first Flower Kings’ album begins with the title song, an upbeat psychedelic excursion. “Welcome back. . . welcome back to the world.” One of the nicest things about Stolt’s writing is his uncanny and ingenious ability to mix taste and class with exploration. Though his writings fits so nicely in the genre of rock, its playfulness has much in common with jazz fusion. And, Stolt is eminently smart and inquisitive.
Soaring vocal harmonies (rather complex at times), jazz-like runs, and humane and gorgeous lyrics help define almost all of Stolt’s music. In recent years, he’s revealed a darker, more critical side in and with his lyrics, but this has been well earned. On Desolation Rose, the latest album by the Flower Kings, Stolt’s observations are wise and sad rather than bitter and distraught.
Interesting sound effects and atmospherics emerge unexpectedly around every corner of the first album. Whistles, trains, dings, scratches, bells, Latin rhythms, woodwinds, references to Hitchcock movies, and a general state of contentment pervade the entire work. Some songs don’t even reach the two-minute mark, while the opening and final tracks exceed 13 minutes each.
Interestingly enough, BACK TO THE WORLD OF ADVENTURES is roughly divided between instrumental numbers and vocal numbers—but the album is merely a shadow of what is and was to come. Mystery had beckoned and Stolt consented. Don’t get me wrong. BACK is an outstanding album in every way, but it really is only a beginning of a majestic journey that continues to this day. Reviewers and admirers almost always point out how “prolific” Stolt is. What an understatement. Not only would 11 more studio albums from the band follow—with Stolt leading all—but there were still solo albums, the Tangent albums, Transatlantic albums, Kaipa albums, Agents of Mercy albums, and . . . the list continues. Looking at Stolt’s complete discography is simply mind boggling. Never a moment of dullness in the Swede’s life. I envy his biographer.
Twenty years old. Happy birthday, Flower Kings. Sadly, I didn’t meet you until your fifth birthday. Still, it’s been a brilliant decade and a half ride with you.
My best of, must owns, of 2013
I realize it’s not the end of the calendar year, but it is the second day of Advent, and it seems like a proper time to list what I love about the music of this past year.
The year, frankly, has overwhelmed me—but all in a good way. As someone who has followed prog rather consciously since about 1981 (age 13) and has been exposed to it since about 1971 (age 3), I love the genre. Frankly, I love many forms of music, including classical, opera, and jazz. I’ve never learned to appreciate anything about country and rap, and, given that I’m 46, such prejudices will probably remain.
Sometime around age 22 or 23, though, I realized that financially, I was going to have to chose a genre if I wanted to collect and listen with any seriousness. Perhaps it’s the slight OCD or some other quirk I possess, but I’ve never liked doing any thing half way. In fact, as my maternal grandparents taught me—whether in taking care of the yard or cooking a meal or baking a loaf of bread or even in helping a neighbor—there’s no sense at all in doing something only partially. In fact, to do anything partially was to slap yourself, integrity, and God in the face. If you’re going to do something, do it well. In fact, do it with excellence, if you possibly can.
So, if I wanted to throw myself into a genre, and not do it halfway, I had to choose between jazz and prog. I love poetry too much, so prog seemed the best genre, as I find much to appreciate in fine lyric writing. And, even in psychedelic lyric writing, there’s a joy to figuring out the puzzle of imagery.
And, so choosing prog, I realized soon after that I’d chosen a genre made up a lot of folks like myself—a number of OCD perfectionists! And, I found that almost everyone making prog was (and is!) deeply committed and intelligent. And, so were (and are!) the fans. No one who loves the superficial of life becomes a prog musician, artist, or aficionado.
The problem was, of course, that when I was age 22 (1990), there wasn’t a lot of prog happening. At least not much new was coming out. Yet, prog could be found all throughout the rock world—though not always in the likeliest places. As a genre, though, prog was probably at its lowest point in terms of what was being released. Yet. . . yet. . . we were only a few years away from Brave and The Light and The Flower King . . .
Flash forward 23 years. Holy schnikees. What a year 2013 has been. Really, could it be better? Doubtful. And, as I mentioned in my Preliminary Awards piece a few days ago, an argument could be made that we’ve reached the pinnacle, the Mount Everest of Prog! I know, I know. Eric Perry is going to slap me down for being hyperbolic. Damnit, Eric, I’m from Kansas! We’re not exactly subtle!!!
Phew. Ok, I feel better getting all of that out.
Two quick comments. First, these are in no order, other than alphabetical. Frankly, these albums are just too good to allow my own will to separate one from another by “better or better.” With one exception. I would think any lover of the genre would want to own each of these. Second, there are several albums that I suspect are wonderful, but do to my loan limitation because of family and work, I didn’t have time to absorb. This latter list includes releases by Sam Healy (SAND is en route to the States as I type this), Mike Kershaw, Haken, Francisco Rafert, Ollocs,and Sky Architects, I apologize to these artists, as they took the time to contact me, and I was unable to give them credit where credit is due. In due time, I will, however.
So, the list of the must-own cds of 2013, with two important exceptions.
Ayreon, The Theory of Everything. I hope to offer a full review of this soon, and I think fellow progarchist Tad Wert will as well. The earlier series of Ayreon albums—possibly and arguably one of the most complex science fiction stories ever written—seems to have become self contained and at an end. Now, if I’m understanding the lyrics from Arjen Lucassen’s latest correctly, Ayreon has become a project about exploring the self rather than about the self exploring the universe. This is not easy listening, in terms of music or lyrics. The former is a shifting feast of glory, no idea lasting more than two or three minutes before gorgeously transforming into some new idea, and the latter is deeply introspective and intelligent. I’ve never had the chance to meet Arjen, but I would guess that he must be about as interesting as possible. For him to keep such a huge range of ideas in one album, musically and lyrically, screams brilliance. I only have one complaint with this release. I’m a huge fan of Arjen’s voice, and he relies on the voices of others. All good, if not outstanding, but I want Arjen’s voice.
Cosmograf, The Man Left in Space. Phew. Yes, let me write that one more time. Phew. That English chronometric and entrepreneurial demigod, Robin Armstrong, has now released four albums under the project name of Cosmograf. Each is better than the last. And, each of “the last” was pretty amazing and astounding and outstanding and lovely and meaningful and . . . you get the point. The Man Left in Space is existentialism at its best. Just as Arjen has written one of the finest science fiction stories of the last century, Robin has given us the musical equivalent of of the works of Albert Camus and Gabriel Marcel. Add to near perfect story telling the musical work of Greg Spawton, Matt Stevens, Nick D’Virgilio, and, among the best, Robin himself, and you have a work of art that will stand the test of time. A family man who loves speed, Robin also loves excellence.
Days Between Stations, In Extremis. This one was a complete surprise to me. A review copy arrived in the mail, courtesy of the band and the master of American prog PR, Billy James. I was intrigued by the cover [que, background sound, Brad’s mother: “Never trust a book by its cover. . . “], though I frankly don’t like it that much. It’s by the famous Paul Whitehead, but it’s a little too psychedelic for my tastes. But, then, I looked at the musician list. Holy smokes! Tony Levin, Billy Sherwood, Colin Moulding, and Rick Wakeman. How did this come about, I wondered? Sherwood and Moulding sing on the album, and neither has ever sounded better. Indeed, they seemed to have been created and birthed for this album. Overall, In Extremis is symphonic prog at its best. At 8 tracks over 70 minutes, the album never lags. It flows together beautifully and movingly. There are some of the most gut-wrenching passages, emotionally, I’ve ever heard in a prog album. And, the two main members of the band, Oscar Fuentis Bills and Sepand Samzadeh, know exactly when to linger over a musical part and when to move on. The high point: The Eggshell Man. I have no idea who or what he is, but I’d like to meet him.
The Fierce and the Dead, Spooky Action. Four great guys—Matt Stevens, Kev Feazey, Stuart Marshall, and Steve Cleaton—making the best music possible for two other great guys, David Elliott, European Perspective Guy (I think this is official superhero name) and founder of Bad Elephant Music, along with the hilarious and artful James Allen. Matt Stevens is a stunning person and artist. It’s been fascinating and heartening to watch him struggle as he makes his way into the profession. He very openly asks about opportunities. Should he pursue fame first or art first? I always know where Matt is going to land. Probably many of us do. He always comes down on the side of art, knowing the fame will follow when it follows. I hope and pray he never changes his mind or soul regarding this. There are lots and lots of folks out there—not just progarchists—cheering these guys on. As my close friend and fellow progarchist, Pete Blum, has said, nothing has hit him so hard since the days of Zappa. And, for Pete, this is a massive and important statement. Everything on this album is wonderful. In particular, I’m quite taken with Parts 4 and 5, a continuation of a theme that Matt and the guys started with Part I, their 19 minutes epic from their very first release. TFATD, not surprisingly, also seems to have started somewhat of a sub genre within prog, the prog instrumental album. In otherwords, what TFATD is doing is roughly equivalent to what progressive jazz was in the 1960s and 1970s. A good sign for the health of all concerned. In particular, newly emerging bands such as Ollocs and Rafert are also releasing instrumental albums, all of them quite good.
The Flower Kings, Desolation Rose. This release surprised me as well, but not for the reason Days Between Stations did. As far as I know, I own everything Roine Stolt has made or contributed to since about 1994. Every side project, everything. So, there was never a question about whether or not I would buy the new Flower Kings album. I would certainly list Space Revolver (2000) and Paradox Hotel (2006) as two of my favorite albums of all time. Stolt always has the power to release wonder in me. Whether it’s the wonder about the first day of creation (Unfold the Future) or John Paul’s Pizza (Space Revolver), I love the libertarian, hippie, playful spirit of Stolt and the band. Really, think about the members of this band. Stolt, Bodin, Reingold, Froberg, and Lehrmann. Already reads like a “supergroup.” Not that they can’t be as serious as they can be trippy. One only has to listen to “Bavarian Skies” or the “Ghost of Red Cloud” to know just how deep they can be. What surprised me about the new album, “Desolation Rose” is just how political and angry it is. I don’t disagree with the anger or the politics. In fact, I think I totally agree. But, “Desolation Rose,” lyrically, is about as far away from “Stardust We Are” as one could possibly imagine. This diversity just demonstrates how talented this Swedish band really is. The entire album builds until it reaches its highpoint (in terms of intensity) in “Dark Fascist Skies.” The final two songs, “Blood of Eden” and “Silent Graveyards,” offer a rather calming denouement.
Fractal Mirror, Strange Attractors. I’ve already had a chance to write a long review of this excellent album on progarchy, and it was (and is) a great honor do so. Strange Attractors is not only one of the best releases of 2013, it’s the freshman release of a brand new group. Three folks—all of whom met one another through the internet prog community (how cool is this!)—makes up this band. Leo Koperdraat, Ed Van Haagen, and Frank Urbaniak. But, we have to add a fourth. It’s art comes from Brian Watson. This is really important. Not only is Watson an amazing artist, but he also creates an image for the band in the way one associates Yes with Roger Dean, Talk Talk with James Marsh, and Jim Trainer with Big Big Train. It’s one of the joys of prog. The art can be (and should be!) as beautiful and meaningful as the music and lyrics. But, back to the music. The three members of Fractal Mirror have created a stunning progressive soundscape, gothic and heavy in tone, but light in the space created. I realize this sounds like a contradiction, and I wish I had the ability to explain it better. I don’t, sadly. It’s really not like anything I’ve heard before. Suffice it to state, it’s quite refreshing and welcoming in its own intensity.
Leah, Otherworld. This is the only EP to make the “best of” list this year. It’s also the only release I’m listing in which the artist (Leah McHenry) doesn’t consider herself a progger. She places herself more in the metal camp, and this becomes obvious in the final song of the EP, “Dreamland,” a beauty and the beast duet with lots of metal “growling.” Whatever one wants to label Leah’s musical style—and I would call it a cross between Sarah Maclachlan and Arjen Lucassen—it is very artful. Leah’s voice could haunt a moor! So much depth, truth, and beauty in every note. The EP is only five songs long—Shores of Your Lies, Northern Edge, Surrounded, Do Not Stand, and Dreamland. The first four possess a very Celtic/Nordic northern edge to them. In fact, I called my initial review of the EP, “On the Northern Edge of Prog.” I’m not bragging, but I am rather proud of this title. it seems to capture exactly what Leah is. Arjen Lucassen, if you read this blog, please look into Leah’s music. I could see the two of you working very well together. Leah, as it turns out, is also about as interesting a person as one might find anywhere. Since Otherworld first arrived at progarchy hq, it’s been in constant listening rotation, and I pretty much have every note and lyric memorized at this point.
Kingbathmat, Overcoming the Monster. When we first started progarchy just a little over a year ago, I received a note from Stereohead Records of the U.K., asking me if we’d be interested in reviewing a cd by Kingbathmat. Sure, I thought. Of course. Only the dead wouldn’t be intrigued by a band with that name. Well, since then, I’ve not only listened to about as much Kingbathmat as exists (still missing a small bit of their back catalogue, but this will be rectified at the beginning of 2014, when the new tax year begins!). I love these guys. I’ve had the chance to get to know John Bassett and Bernard (he seems to have several last names on the internet!). What incredible guys. Really a band of Peart’s “Tom Sawyers.” Mean, mean stride, never renting the mind to god or government. Smart, insightful, unafraid. Frankly, these are the kind of guys I would want next to me should I ever find myself under fire. As with Leah, I’m not sure that Kingbathmat is perfectly prog. But, then again, if it’s “perfectly prog,” it’s probably not prog at all. Kingbathmat mix a number of styles, many of them heavy, to form a mythic maze of musical inspiration. They are by far the heaviest in my list for 2013. The “Tom Sawyer” reference is not just lyrical. Parts of Kingbathmat pay great homage to early and mid-period Rush. Of all Rush albums, Counterparts is my least favorite. That doesn’t mean I don’t love it. I’ve been a Rush man since 1981, and I will die a Rush man. So, any criticism is relative. But, if you could imagine Rush entering the studio with the music of Counterparts, the lyrics more intense than culturally sensitive, and a producer who wants to rock, really rock, you’d have an inkling of what “Overcoming the Monster” is. Every song is a joy. Not in the precious, sappy sense, but in the satisfying, just sense. Everything is really quite perfect: vocals, bass, guitar, drums. Since I first received a copy of OVERCOMING, I’ve probably listened to it every other day. After a hard day of teaching (a job I love) or writing something scholarly, there’s nothing quite like putting this cd on, sitting back, and saying, “yeah, it was a good day.”
Nosound, Afterthoughts. Giancarlo Erra might be the anti-Kingbathmat. Erra, an Italian demigod of sound in his own right, loves silence and space as much as Kingbathmat loves walls of Rush/Soundgarden-like sounds of thunder! Indeed, Erra has a lot of Spirit of Eden and Laughing Stock in him, a lot of Arvo Part, too. If there are three notes, maybe there should be two. If there are two notes, maybe there should be one. If there is one note, maybe you should let silence have its say. I’ve been following the work of Giancarlo Erra for almost a decade now. He always entrances and entices me. He creates soundscapes so powerfully delicate that one wants to drown in their dreamlike, twilight quality. He’s also every bit the lyricist Hollis was at his best. He’s also really a complete artist. He not only writes his music and lyrics, he creates his own packaging, is a rather jaw-dropping photographer, and even designs his own computer apps. I was thrilled that Kscope just re-released his early masterpiece, Lightdark (2008), remastered. As with Lightdark, Afterthoughts just flows. Gentle, punctuated, quiet, loud, emptiness, walls. Listening to Afterthoughts is akin to standing on a peak in the Idaho Rockies, watching a violent storm pass under you in an adjoining valley. Nothing is unneeded, and nothing needs to be added. Afterthoughts is what it is, another Erra masterpiece.
Two more to go, but supper’s ready . . . .