Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Steven Wilson - 4 and One Half (2016)

Yet another good album from Porcupine Trees main man. Most tracks seem to me though to follow the now over familiar Steve Wilson song style ,which is my only criticism here. To be honest it's not until we get to track 5 do we get into something more progressive/inventive and memorable. 'Vermillioncore' is a powerful instrumental with King Crimson styled bass. Now an whole album of this! would have been GREAT! 'Don't Hate Me' is an excellent, if unecessary reworking of one of Porcupine Trees best songs, with some female vocals and closes the album. Worth checking out for the tracks mentioned! SC&E

Steven has come back, with six easy-to-soak songs upon the newest album "4 1/2". Actually, I'm not so familiar with his creation until now enough to discuss his music style or album itself, but his previous album "The Raven That Refused To Sing (And Other Stories)" has amazed me a lot ... anyway, I could listen to and enjoy "4 1/2" with fresh feeling, whether "The Raven ..." is fantastic or not. Able to mention this album should sound like his straight attitude for pop / rock, not so innovative nor novel though. Indeed the first shot "My Book Of Regrets" has a couple of variations scattered along with his soundscape, but his music basis sounds consistent from the beginning to the end ... Various phrases squeezed can be heard as a mass of rock. This mass cannot be divided into pieces (pop and anti-pop) ... can you?
"Vermillioncore" is another heavy and cool starshine around him. Tight but distorted vibes kick us away. Her vermillion would be attractive, mysterious, and poisonous ... that could kill us swiftly only if we touch this, I imagine. Such an obvious risk and benefit he might launch via this track. Aye for him, rainy Sunday might be a colourful day, I guess through "Sunday Rain Sets In". To run and hide our heads should not always be needed under the Sunday rainy sky, but be careful to get drastic shower or dreadful thunder / lightning sometimes attacking us ... he says upon this colourful stuff. Quite simple but enjoyable. And yes, "Year Of The Plague", almost a solo track by Steven, is one of my favourite songs. We must get immersed in river-flowing-out-like rhythm prints and dreamy, heartwarming melody lines ... he might show something veiled in his inner meditative world for grabbing our serious, sincere reaction in front of the song out.
And as a result ... I suppose all of his sincerity for music would be expressed over the last song "Don't Hate Me", that sounds of kaleidoscopic appearances. Sometimes quiet, sometimes violent (Theo's freakout saxophone is pretty effective), sometimes depressive, and sometimes enthusiastic ... and every vision repeats over and over on a regular basis. This atmospheric tide formed by Steven Project cannot be avoided at all. Every rock fan can enjoy this fantastic rock dish, I'm sure! 

  A surprise, in-between interim bridge-between album from workaholic master composer maestro mixer masterer overachiever extraordinaire Steven Wilson!
Jumping in, I'm caught by both stylistic and technical change from recent material - the 36--minute effort finds (forgive the phrase) Wilson at his solo work's most "accessible" and what I find to be the closest to the famed Porcupine Tree sound. Out are most of the avante gardish-ish jazz jam-isms we found on his seminal Raven that Refused to Sing album and to a lesser degree found on Hand Cannot Erase (though that album certainly was more "mainstream" and less jazzy). That should come as no surprise since a majority of the material here was cut from Hand Cannot Erase.
Not being a big fan of jazz in general, this, in this humble listener's opinion, is a good thing...
The album opener "My Books of Regrets" is a lovely nine-minute suite that, after 10 or so listens is really growing on me.
"Happiness III" is a wonderful gem, hummable and would have fit in nicely into of the lighter material we found in 2000s-era Porcupine Tree album.
"Year of the Plague" (dark, the listener can easily tell it's the only track here from Raven) and "Sunday Rain Sets in" (from WIlson's latest) are both lovely instrumental tracks- not the best he's done but great nonetheless.
Yet another vocal-free jam, "Vermillioncore" reminds me a lot of "Bornlivedie" (especially around the 2-minute mark) from one of my all-time favorites Signify.
A perfect Wilson/Ninet Tayeb duet re-imagining of 1999 Stupid Dream's "Don't Hate Me" closes the album (of course it does) finding Wilson and his solo-career comrades perfectly replicating and expanding upon the dreary 17 year-old classic. Theo Travis effortlessly replays his saxophone solo that I've always loved in this song too.

 Songs / Tracks Listing
1. My Book of Regrets (9.23)
2. Year of the Plague (4.15)
3. Happiness 3 (4.31)
4. Sunday Rain Sets In (3.50)
5. Vermillioncore (5.09)
6. Don't Hate Me (9.34)

Total Time 36:42

 Line-up / Musicians 
- Steven Wilson / vocals, guitars, keyboards, bass guitar
- Guthrie Govan / lead guitar
- Nick Beggs / bass guitar
- Marco Minnemann / drums
- Adam Holzman / keyboards
- Theo Travis / saxophone, flute
- Ninet Tayeb / vocals

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Astralasia - Wind on Water (2014)

Not a band you will find on any progressive/krautrock rock lists, better known as a trance music outfit really, i always thought they were more than just that though, and this latest offering confirms it, with its stunning mix of psychedelic tripped out sounds, and yes! fantastic krautrock.

 From the start you just know your into something special here, grabbing your attention with some out there sublime ambient hypnotic electronics which this band are so good at, especially on the track 'The Innosense' which is followed by the powerfull and superb 'The Desert' with the excellent voice parts. Icing on the cake though is the final track 'Continuim' which is a brilliant psyched out krautrock groove with distorted electric slide guitar which is just pure sonic spaceout immersion. 

I should add, this is one of those albums that is best listened to in its entirety for the maximum effect.

In 2014 Astralasia were approached by vinyl only label Fruits De Mer Records to produce an album of new music for a limited vinyl release. This release gained great press reviews and radio play and soon sold out and is currently unavailable. Due to incredible demand and soaring prices on Ebay of the now rare vinyl edition, Magick Eye Records is now releasing a digipak CD and digital edition.

The album consists of six tracks, some short and some long with an incredible mix of space and kraut rock combined with ambient, electro, prog and psychedelia. The album also includes 'The Desert' a track that has already been gaining interest from radio play and You Tube with its stunning, spaghetti western meets Mad Max feel.

Astralasia's Marc Swordfish said about the album:-
'Wind On Water' mostly came about thru jams, a bit similar to our first cassette, rather than being sample-led; it kinda takes us to a more organic, free situation. It certainly makes it more exciting for us, enabling us to do our full-on wig-outs. The current line up is so fluid, it's certainly a most exciting place.'

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Arsenal - Arsenal 6 (1991)

   Excellent russian jazz fusion album. This and Arsenal 5 (also 'Created withThere Own Hands' ) are the best three more accessible albums i have yet heard from this band. A fine mix of jazz fusion which at times reminds me of some of Klaus Doldingers Passport and just as inventive if at times jazzier. The track 'Yellow Sky' is a stunner with its ambience and oriental style flourishes.    ARSENAL, pioneers of jazz-rock in the Soviet Union, is a creature of Alexey (often spelled like Alexei) Kozlov (b. 1935), professional architect and self-taught saxophonist and composer. He played jazz since the 50s, had deep knowledge of its different styles, was a member of numerous bands, participated in jazz festivals in the USSR and abroad (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary) and up to the 70s he had a good reputation in jazz circles. But as open-minded musician he was (and still is) always interested in different music styles. Listening to the music of bands like CHICAGO, MAHAVISHNU ORCHESTRA, BLOOD, SWEET AND TEARS, PINK FLOYD, KING CRIMSON, ELP and others gave him the idea to go in new direction and form a band, capable of playing the fusion of these styles.

According to Alexey Kozlov, he wanted to create a band of virtuosi, who can swing, improvise, have the "feel of the blues" and appreciate different music styles. It was not so easy to find musicians for new band. Most of experienced jazzmen were skeptical about rock and did not consider it serious music. Rock music in the Soviet Union was then in embryonic state and almost totally in underground, even the word "rock" was associated with hostile Western influences. Official equivalent of rock music existed in the form of so-called vocal-instrumental ensembles - professional groups, singing "songs of Soviet composers", without any rebellious spirit, specific to rock. Underground rock musicians were enthusiastic, but they were not able to play complex pieces, many of them even could not read music. The solution came mainly in the face of young Moscow Conservatory and Gnesin's Institute students, whose interests were not restricted by classical music only.

The band was called ARSENAL (there is a play of words - "ars" means "art" in Latin - and, additionally, it was in some way inspired by famous British football team). First ARSENAL rehearsal took place on November, 12, 1973. Initial line-up consisted of 4 singers and brass section, standard rock instruments were used as well. The band began to perform excerpts from Webber - Rice rock-opera "Jesus Christ Superstar", compositions of CHICAGO, BLOOD, SWEET AND TEARS, TOWER OF POWER and music written by Alexey Kozlov - and, obviously, became in the underground. Some records of that era were published only in 2005 on "Underground Arsenal" CD. Ensemble gave occasional concerts (without being paid for them, because it was against the law to get money for gigs if artists are not working in some official concert organization) and intensively rehearsed. Band members combined music with their "main" jobs and studies then.

Situation changed only in 1976, when Kaliningrad Philharmonic invited ARSENAL to constant job and the band became professional even from the official point of view. Ensemble extensively tours different towns and cities of the Soviet Union, takes part in some festivals at home and in East Europe, but is always under pressure of ideological machine - ARSENAL was not allowed to play concerts in Moscow until 1980, the first album, "Arsenal" (aka "Dangerous Game"), recorded in 1977, was published only in 1979.
ARSENAL music during its long career came through various stylistic changes. From   Songs / Tracks Listing Side 1

1. Сильвер-блюз / Silver Blues (8:01)
2. Жёлтое небо / Yellow Sky (5:50
3. Незнакомка / She Is A Stranger (6:05)

Side 2
4. Зависть / Envy (11:50) 5. Мир тесен / It's A Small World (8:58) Line-up / Musicians
- Alexey Kozlov / alto and soprano saxophones, keyboards
- Ivan Smirnov / guitar
- Andrei Denisov / keyboards
- Alexander Pishikov / tenor saxophone, flute
- Anatoli Kulikov / bass
- Igor Djavad-zade / drums
- Valeri Demin / percussion

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