Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Go Wεst - S/T (1985)

Led by the charismatic, 70's soul-inflected vocals of Peter Cox and fluid guitar work of Richard Drummie, progressive pop duo Go West were one of the more interesting acts to come out of the U.K. during the robotic mid 80's. Infectiously good and strangely compelling as far as atmosphere goes despite their overtly synthesized take on blue-eyed R&B meets New Wave romanticism, they had a couple of high charting hits via this fantastic debut before falling into obscurity until a few years later when their hit song 'The King Of Wishful Thinking' ended up on the Pretty Woman soundtrack, reinvigorating their prospects.

Although obviously dated in the production department, this synth-pop record is a real charmer from beginning to end, almost to the point where I'd call it a unsung classic.

Recommended to fans of: Level 42, It Bites, Johnny Hates Jazz, or Giraffe (late 80's band started by pop-maestro Kevin Gilbert).

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Monday, May 28, 2012

Hobson's Choice - New Horizons (1996)

Very obscure American (New Orleans specifically) progressive rock gem from the late 90's that holds a special place in my heart: I ran across New Horizons on accident as a sophomore in high school, a time in my life when I knew very little about music beyond what my friends found on MySpace or heard on the radio...and, alongside the output of bands like Camel and The Alan Parsons Project, it was quite a revelation to these ears of mine!

Sonically, it comes off as a rather thoughtful take on territory previously delved into by Yes, Gentle Giant, and some of  the U.S.'s more interesting 70's progressive rock highlights such as Starcastle, Mirthrandir and Cathedral. That being said, these guys are very much their own beast: the arrangements lean closer to jazz-fusion in places than the high-strung art rock of their influences, and are never anything less than intriguing. While only seven tracks in length, they're all classy and interesting: in particular, 'Raging Sun' is simply superb, a stirring opening number that builds into a gorgeous guitar crescendo about halfway through, while the piano led 'Steps Of Eight' and infectious title track exemplify what I like best in prog rock: twists, turns and oodles of harmony.

These fellas didn't make so much as a splash when they released this album back in '96...not even in the progressive rock community. However, it's a diamond in the rough and a shining example of what happens when good bands get even better ideas and decide to record something interesting with 'em.

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bεε Gεεs - Spiяits Hαviиg Flowи (1979)

First of all, R.I.P. Robin Gibb: you were one in a million, and a lot of people out there are going to miss that voice of yours.

This particular post is my dedication to the former B.G. Arriving in 1979 a couple of years after the Saturday Night Fever OST catapulted these disco-savvy brothers into a level of megastardom equivalent to that of The Beatles at their peak, Spirits Having Flown is considered to be not only their last great stamp upon a rapidly changing musical landscape (disco was just about dead), but their most ambitious LP as far as their artistic prowess & execution is concerned. To put it lightly, the arrangements are such that I'd say this is a pop masterpiece up there with Michael Jackson's Thriller and The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds: most of the songs here don't even need an introduction from me, and will most likely persist prominently in mankind's culture consciousness long after I'm six feet under.

Anyway, I'm not going to tell you regulars to stop hating soft rock, post-disco, etc. or whatnot, but I personally think its a shame to hate on this collection of sublime funk-pop crossover deliciousness, especially since the album boasts some of the best three-part vocal harmonizing of all time. Dig it!

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Coиstαиcε Dεmby - Aмbrosiαl Wαvεs - Hεαling Wαtεrs (2011)

Latest offering from Space Ambient's reigning, Grammy Award-winning queen, and it is indeed illustrious: a 72 minute long monolith of a composition better suited to dream therapy than active listening. In that sense, this is a great record right up there with the output of post 90's Robert Rich and Steve Roach: a massive, endlessly layered soundscape smorgasborg to ease the toils of your waking hours.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Jasper Wrath - S/T (1971)

Now here's something quite special: one of those rare, mandatory American progressive rock releases from the golden 70's, and a swell place to begin one's journey into the fascinating, labyrinthine discography of singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Jeff Cannata, a very talented fellow who would do quite a few interesting things in the AOR world in the late 80's/early 90's...but that's a story for another day!

Jasper Wrath take the (then) commonplace psychedelic proto-progressive remnants of late 60's whimsy into some rather interesting places for good ol' 71: there's more flute here than a jazz act covering Tull, and in conjunction with the hazy America-inspired harmonies and occasional electronic sequenced (?!) rhythms on bong-burning tidbits such as 'Drift Through Our Cloud', you've got yourself a real diamond in the rough!

Fans of progressive folk that sizzles and smokes, early Kraftwerk and bands such as Caravan and Camel, this is a record that comes with my most sincere blessings.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Mizar - Natural Design (2009) [Repost]

Modern contemporary jazz pop classic from Hungary, reposted in higher quality as requested!

This is a sublime little trio project that came out a couple of years ago, an almost Sinatrian take on the exotic cruise-friendly jazz-rock sound that The Rippingtons and Special EFX made famous back in the late 80's/early 90's. Led by the charismatically Brazilian-sounding voice of one Fanni Sarkozy and fleshed out through a variety of instrumentation, Natural Design is a striking array of lush ideas and catchy songwriting: a cool, candy-coated stab toward realms normally privy to the masterful hands of fellows such as Pat Metheny and Michael Franks.

Aficionados of jazz pop, bossa nova and all things chill....welcome home.

Ripped from CD in 320CBR.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Eяic Bεnεt - Loѕτ In Tiмε (2010)

You won't find too many R&B artists out in the field today with an intuitive affinity for the summer blazed soul of the 1970's, but I'd say this guy is one of the rare few who truly know the stuff. The title track in and of itself is the kind of musical ecstasy that only a band like the Stylistics might have been able to pull off back in the stone age, but this is a smooth talkin' record that does the last decade proud amidst a sea of saccharine releases from far too many others in this genre.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Tнoυgнt Cнαmbεr - Angυlαr Pεrcεptions (2007)

As far as technically proficient genre exercises go, progressive metal supergroups tend to be quite the treat if the proceedings gel at just the right temperature. Talented vocalists matrimonially paired via label dictation or otherwise with hotshot guitarists and other high-profile specialists at their weapon of choice (drumkit, keyboards, etc.)...what more could you be looking for at this end of the spectrum?

In the case of this fantastic little project, you have Enchant's leading man Ted Leonard gliding amidst the furious finesse of Arch Rival guitarist Michael Harris, who masterminded the whole shebang. And if there's one thing I know about guitarists, its that they tend to write pretty good songs: 'Sacred Treasure' is a vintage stab at Dream Theater circa 1992, complete with synth-guitar counterpoint and some Flamenco sweeps. Some cuts are downright infectious as far as pop-metal sensibility goes though, with kudos to the Eastern scaled 'A Legend`s Avalon' and 'God Of Oblique', a song that Ray Alder would have sacrificed babies for to have written himself.

A lot of 90's and early 00's progressive metal hasn't aged quite as well as some would have you believe, but Angular Perceptions is an underrated curio from the latter part of this time period which falls into a far rarer camp than most: a release which was drowned out during a year when the market was suffocated by Fates Warning and Symphony X soundalikes, but in retrospect was a cut above every last one them in execution. You can't go wrong with this sucker!

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Saturday, May 12, 2012

REVIEW: The Residents - Coochie Brake (2011)

Around the time that psychedelia was falling out of sorts across the world, there was an emergent force out of the deep bayous of Louisiana who traveled north and west, perplexing the world wherever they went and leaving only mystery and awe upon disembarking from the latest wharfside gig. If The Beatles had changed the way the world saw music from the outside in only a few years before Flower Power met its demise, then this band was shifting new terrain from the inside out...crawling out and about dimensions alien to all but a receptive, whimsical minority.

Since 1969 and counting, an anonymous eyeball-donning outfit known as The Residents have been and still remain the greatest enigma in today's musical world, the godfathers of all that's strange and outside convention in the world of rock n' roll. Sixty-something albums, countless live recordings and many a world-tour later, we are living in the second decade of a new century, and these strange beings from a time before most of us were born continue to dazzle new generations unabated by changes in sonic fashion or whatever major labels decide is worth trending.

It stands to reason, then, that last year's Coochie Brake (the titular marshland where this band supposedly spent their youth) may be the first time any relatively normal music-faring individual has encountered this esoteric ensemble...and they couldn't have found a better starting point.

To elaborate, The Residents only create (basically) two kinds of albums: those which are satirical in nature and/or those which tell some kind of bizarre, sometimes unfathomable tale. Enthusiasts of this bunch will regale you with praise upon their 70's period, the decade where some of this group's unquestionable classic additions to the canons of avant-garde rock were unveiled and released (the ambient histrionics of Eskimo, the unsettling Not Available, the synth-haunted Fingerprince), all of which were concept albums. Coochie Brake continues that tradition via an untypically semi-autobiographical account of the band's beginnings in their swampy homeland.

And it's a hell of a trip, like a dream you were thoroughly immersed within before the waking world reeled you back into the open air of day-to-day sense & logic. Sludgy guitars straight out of the fevered murk, horns, glittering electronic landscapes that juxtapose and enhance the production, topped by menacing monologues echoing above the dim, rich mixture in...Spanish? Guttural mantras reverberate like flesh-formed didgeridoos, and it's all so deliciously voodoo and indifferent to anything the group has done before, much less what anyone else is doing musically at the moment.

It's weird to the point of obsession, and richer than anything this one-of-a-kind act has done in decades. You could die happy with just this on repeat, cycling unto eternity as vague aspirations disintegrate with dawn's untimely arrival at your windowsill.

Buy It Here!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

808 Sτατε - 90 (1989)

The Sgt. Peppers of early acid house, and it's not too hard to understand why in retrospect. Highway blaster 'Pacific 202' features a ridiculous bassline set against a punchy horn refrain, singlehandedly establishing the basic feel for every Sonic The Hedgehog game OST that would define 90's gamer culture for years to come, while techno and the 21st century's obsession with 8-bit get a heavy dose of foreshadowing in rave friendly beat epics like 'Cobra Bora' and 'Sunrise'.

Whatever your retrospective impressions may be, it was albums like this that changed the musical landscape seemingly overnight in the year of our Lord of Ten, Nine and Eighty Nine, and everything you probably love as far as electronica still feels that shift today.

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Thε Gяεαtεst Show On Eαяth - Horizons

Early jazz-rock progressive crossover stuff, kind of like a more psychedelic Chicago or BS&T taking on Emerson, Lake & Palmer songwriting conceits with a West Coast twist. Tasty!

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Saturday, May 5, 2012

REVIEW: Storm Corrosion - Storm Corrosion (2012)

41 years ago, at the dawn of the age of all things progressive and weird in underground music, there was a band out of Kent called Comus who recorded & released a strange little record, titled First Utterance, to a lackluster market despite enthusiasm from people such as a then-coming-into-prominence David Bowie. It was an arcane, mad, even frightening album at times: the roars and blistering raw lyricism of Roger Wooten, in contrast to the strange, off-kilter acoustics and ethereal woodwinds, made for the kind of legendary release that only comes around in a genre once in a blue moon, and all you need to do is punch in the album at a site like RateYourMusic to see just how many people appreciate it's disturbing brand of acid folk in the realms of all things rootsy and stripped down.

Around the same time as First Utterance hit shelves (few as they were), singer/songwriter Scott Walker had begun to gain something of a cult audience thanks to his increasingly haunting take on baroque folk & pop with albums such as Scott 3 and Scott 4. The man has continued his decent into musical madness over the last few decades, has legions of fans across the world, and was even the subject of a documentary back in 2006!

Why is it, then, that when two individuals as prominent as Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree) and Mikael Akerfeldt (Opeth) come together to make a wonderful, wonderful album that stands just as tall as the classic stuff I just mentioned, they get slapped around with negative reviews across the blog and review sphere by the very same type who are just as quick to praise the ghostly tuneage of the distant past?

In an age where music has become so pathetically disposable in the mind of your average listener and attention spans have waned to the point of oblivion en-masse, this record serves as 2012's ideal musical litmus test for the initiated and uninitiated alike: the people who get it will be in for a treat beyond treats, and the rest will simply shake their heads in bemused, even disappointed confusion.

From my perspective, Storm Corrosion is a modern day encapsulation of that part of the 70's that a lot of people don't appreciate like they should, the kind of esoteric, pitch-black self indulgence that either alienates your sensibilities...or sets them on fire in a way few LPs can. These six cuts, orchestrated and led by Akerfeldt's ever immersive guitar work, emanate a black forest from your speakers that lets in only a sliver of sunshine at the best of times: you won't see much unless you give yourself time to let your eyes adjust.

As the old idiom goes, there is nothing new under the sun: all that has been done has already been done. There will always be evil-sounding baroque folk that seems aimless to someone more accustomed to listening to Blink-182 or whatever Pitchfork is currently on board about. But when people lack knowledge and cannot contextualize or step back, you can bet that gems like this will get swept under the rug and given a poorly-labeled reputation that scares away new audiences who might very well love the music at first stream.

Unplug from the media machine and let this sucker spin without preconceptions, because Storm Corrosion defies the temporary and boils like a dream come true. Your mileage may vary, but this is a sonic experience that was built to last.

Buy It Here!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Scoяpioиs - Cяαzy Шoяld (1990)

Classic post-80's metal from some nobody German band that your dad definitely didn't used to listen to obsessively. I'm pretty sure they did a song about tornadoes or something before, but it's all kinda fuzzy right now...

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